Serving multiple roles: Sheriff Darin Balaam's second job

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) For the past year, Darin Balaam has served as the Washoe County Sheriff. But twice a week he goes by a different title. Every Tuesday and Thursday, you'll find him at Hug High School teaching intro to criminal justice to seniors earning college credit.

Balaam is an adjunct professor through Truckee Meadows Community College's Jump Start program.

"I've been teaching for four years and it is one of the greatest things I've done since law enforcement," he said.

In fact, despite his hectic schedule, Balaam says teaching is something is not willing to give up.

"When I became sheriff that is the one promise I told the kids," he said "t's just one of those classrooms and high schools I won't let go of. So many people have passed on stuff in their careers to me and that's what I look at. It's part of our responsibility to pass on to the next generation of this is what law enforcement is about."

For his students, it was a little jarring to walk in and see your teacher is the sheriff.

"It was kind of intimidating because it was the sheriff," Stefanie Valdivia, a senior and Hug High said. "But he was really nice and you could tell he really wanted to be there."

Serving as sheriff also gives Balaam access to more resources to help lift the lessons off the page. A recent tour of the jail gave the students an real life look law enforcement operations.

"It allows them that glimpse inside truly what we do," he said. "But more importantly why do we do certain things? Why do we have these tactics?"

He also uses the class as a recruitment tool. At least two former students currently work in the WCSO.

"We have a lot of positions they can start out," he said. "As long as they have a high school diploma and they are 18 in the civilian side. Then when they are 21 if they want to test and become a deputy sheriff [they can]."

For the Valdivia, he's helped her see a different side to law enforcement.

"He's taken an interest in us and we are just high school students," she said. "It makes us feel like we really matter and that we have a voice.

And the students aren't the only ones being taught. Balaam says listening to the kids helps make him a better sheriff.
"Those kids have seen a lot," he said. "They've experience more than a lot of kids. They're not afraid if something happens in our community they'll question it and they'll give you their insight and that truly helps when you come back to this role to know the other side and take that into consideration."

That mutual respect has built a strong bond between students and teacher.

"The next class after the election, I walked in and they threw confetti and brought in doughnuts," Balaam said. "As much as I give to them they give back. It builds that relationship of for me and law enforcement that we're here to help. We're not here to arrest people and we're mean. We actually want to help so ask us those questions."

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019