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BUENA PARK : The Long Arm of Principal Horton

October 22, 1994|LESLEY WRIGHT

Emery Elementary School Principal Jerry Horton does not want to run into his former students on his second job. He is more likely to have to slap handcuffs on them than ask them how their college search is going.

Horton patrols the city as a reserve police officer. The unpaid job is both a way to provide community service and to fulfill a yearning he has had since childhood.

Academia was not his first-choice, he said. He was dazzled by the guns and sirens of his police officer uncle and he pursued the career until his 5-foot-6 inch frame failed him on a height test.

So Horton, now 49, started up the education ladder. He taught sixth grade at Corey Elementary, then became a vice principal at Buena Park Junior High School.

Although he disliked the disciplinary duties of that job, it put him in contact with officers who told him about Buena Park's reserve officer force.

Fourteen years ago--and after women had started joining police departments and height scales no longer applied--Horton joined up.

"I went there the first day in my principal clothes and they made us jump down and do push-ups," he recalled with a laugh.

Classes followed for four months on criminal codes, domestic violence, driving, hand-to-hand combat and shooting. Training was a mini-version of the regular force. He went to work in La Palma for nine years before transferring to Buena Park.

On the job, he has dealt with the sadness of trying to save a dying infant and the thrill of taking criminals off the streets.

Horton said he does not have to change his mood much when he goes directly from his principal's office to the patrol car.

"They're basically the same job," he said. "You do a lot of listening and you try to diffuse the situation. . . . My mode doesn't change until someone changes it."

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