Jason Patrick

Mentor, coach, officer and friend

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— Police work isn't all about catching the bad guys.

In the halls of Steamboat Springs High School, it's about building relationships.

Jason Patrick is an eight-year veteran with the Steamboat Springs Police Department, but his role takes on a different meaning when he steps inside the high school.

To the students he is a mentor, teacher, coach and friend.

Patrick, 29, never thought a career in law enforcement would take him back to his roots and into the lives of young people.

Patrick moved to Steamboat with his family when he was 8 and played high school basketball.

He left Colorado after graduation but the mountains lured him back to Steamboat. He was 21 when he joined his hometown police department.

"I didn't see myself getting into this area of law enforcement," Patrick said of working at his alma mater. "I saw myself arresting bad guys."

But his plans changed when the high school resource officer position opened three years ago.

It was an opportunity Patrick couldn't pass up.

"I thought (it was) the coolest job around," he said.

J.D. Hays, Steamboat's public safety services director and Patrick's boss, thought he would need to look beyond Steamboat to find the right person for the job.

He found the right person in Patrick.

A transition to the high school involved a demotion of sorts. Patrick was a sergeant at the time, but a change was in order.

"I had worked patrol and been a detective," he said. "I wanted to work with kids and see some of the good stuff in law enforcement for a while."

It has not been a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job.

He goes where the kids are. That means playing a pickup game of hoops in the gym after school, advising student leaders, cheering on the Sailors at the state volleyball tournament and attending the latest school play.

"I try and deal with the kids in as many non-law enforcement ways as possible," he said.

It's a family affair for Patrick, his wife, Brandy, and their 4-year-old son Jackson.

"He just loves to be around kids," Brandy Patrick said. "He thrives on being with kids. He is a kid."

Jackson has become somewhat of a mascot for the Sailors because he's in the bleachers for so many of their games.

Pictures of the little boy and Brandy hang on the wall in Patrick's office at school. This is where students come to talk to Patrick about school, family, relationships and life.

A transparent blow-up purple couch in the corner invites teens to take a load off. And they do.

Their stories are often upsetting and hard to leave behind at the office.

Patrick knows it comes with the territory, and he welcomes those opportunities to offer direction and advice.

Sometimes his guidance isn't always appreciated.

"He has a tough job because he is trying to build relationships with kids but sometimes he has to be the bad guy," Steamboat Springs High School Principal Dave Schmid said.

"But even the kids that he has to be kind of hard on, they learn to respect him."

Patrick knows he won't ever win over the entire student body, so he focuses on mentoring those students who are willing to learn something from him.

The former Sailors basketball player coaches freshman basketball.

Head coach Kelly Meek is thankful to have a former athlete join him on the sidelines.

"It's just really a blessing," he said.

Meek remembers Patrick as an unselfish team player who pushed himself on the court.

"There was never a day he took off," Meek said. "He could take hard coaching and stay positive. He never looked for an excuse or a way out."

Patrick's attitude on the court spilled over into his coaching. He relates well to his players because he can give them examples from his own experience as a Sailor ball player, Meek said.

Patrick coached junior Sean Murphy in the ninth grade. Murphy, 16, said his former coach inspires his athletes to give their all on and off the court. Lessons learned in practice are applicable in life.

"He has a good attitude ... and pushes us to be the best we can be," Murphy said.

Patrick uses his position to make a difference in students' lives, he said.

"He likes to get to know all the kids," Murphy said. "He's earned their respect."

When the final bell of the 2002-2003 school year rings at Steamboat Springs High School, Patrick will return to his former line of police work.

Catching the bad guys isn't such a bad summer job.

But the first signs of the new school year will bring him back to his favorite beat: high school students.

"They talk to me a lot better when I'm not in uniform," he said.

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