“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”
Writer C.S. Lewis’ famous quote still rings true today, now maybe more than ever. It is a fact; children – and adults alike – will indeed encounter cruel enemies. But how does one defend themselves from the sting of cruelty? Perhaps the answer lies in the form of a hero. Heroes embody the traits necessary to prevail in the face of adversity; courage, selflessness, humility, patience, and caring.
Though not an exact science, there seems a certain alchemy in the creation of heroes. Often it appears in mixed measures of each trait and perhaps a little sprinkle of others; hardwork, circumstance, and opportunity. Meridian Deputy Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea is a shining example of a homegrown brand of hero. One that our young and impressionable children can recognize and also emulate.
Raised in Gooding, Idaho, Basterrechea’s parents instilled in himself and his older brothers a hard-work ethic. His father’s drive for success was especially impressionable upon Basterrechea as a young man.
“My father came to this country when he was 17 years old, as a sheepherder and worked his way up to starting his own business. My parents worked extremely hard to put myself and my older brothers through college. He taught us the value of actually going out and getting your hands dirty, and that no job is beneath you. That you do whatever job is out there for you to provide for your family.”
As a result of his upbringing, Basterrechea also felt the importance of teaching and the desire to reach and educate others in a meaningful way. This vocation became two-fold under the influence of his brother who was already a member of the police force.
Basterrechea recalls, “My brother was a police officer and had been for some time and he advised me to get a degree in education regardless of whether I went into law enforcement. He told me that if I went into another career path the degree would still suit me.”
As a result of the many ride-alongs with his brother, the seeds of law enforcement had been duly planted and after earning his degree in education, years of student teaching and work firefighting with the BLM, in 1996 he began his law enforcement journey with the Meridian Police Department.
“I liked that law enforcement was an exciting job and was different everyday. But I knew that I could also teach in that job. I could teach police officers, teaching to the community, and teaching kids at the same time.”
Using his education background has helped Basterrechea with one of his finest skills. Communication. Especially during our current health crisis.
Says Basterrechea, “One thing that has worked well is being able to communicate with our officers in a calm way knowing that we’re faced with risk everyday and providing them with some calm leadership that tells them we understand that they [the officers] are putting themselves – and their families – more at risk, but this is a calling [profession] to do the right things and help the community. We always let them know that we are looking at the best ways to protect them, whether it is providing proper protective equipment or even changing schedules to help during this pandemic.”
And Basterrechea has witnessed the way that this symbiosis of communication and leadership has unfolded within the community.
“Some people have made masks for us, other local business leaders have come to the police department to feed our officers. We have received a lot of support during this time.”
Always keeping teaching in mind, Basterrechea has used his educational background to improve the quality of officer safety while under his guard.
Says Basterrechea, “I drew a lot from my teaching education on how to safely do this job whether its using defensive tactics, arrest/control tactic or just looking at a situation in a mental health point of view, teaching the officer these different ways. My entire career has been set to ensure that these officers can be healthy at work and healthy at home.”
And when he is not wearing his badge and uniform of blue?
“I love working with kids. Any cause that helps kids become a little more healthy and good community members, to help them grow. I worked with Special Olympics in the past.”
With black belts degrees in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kodokan Judo, Basterrechea takes his expertise to the community by teaching martial arts classes to kids. As in keeping with his day job and teaching police officers, he dedicates this time in teaching kids life skills as well.
“Martial arts teaches them such things as discipline, hard work, and respect for others.”
Deputy Chief Basterrechea brings to children - and the community - a modern day version of a brave knight and heroic courage. It is through his actions, his dedication to service and his teaching, that their destiny will be brighter, not darker.