Most people have a preconceived notion about what a police detective does on a daily basis. Gathering clues and interviewing possible witnesses typically come to mind when the occupation of a detective is mentioned, but few people probably suspect that true police detectives are often called to carry out some of the same tasks that are usually associated with beat cops. Such is the case with Ernesto Prieto, a detective with the San Luis Police Department in San Luis, Arizona. Prieto recently found himself faced with trying to talk a 16-year-old illegal immigrant out of committing suicide.
Prieto, who has been with the SLPD for 15 years, recently received a call about a boy who had climbed to the top of a utility pole and was threatening to jump. Prieto arrived at the scene and when he looked up and saw the young man at the top of the pole, he noticed that “he looked determined, and I thought that whatever was said to him, he was going to jump.”
The young man had been trying to flee from Border Patrol agents and had climbed up the pole as a means of escape. Prieto has been trained in handling would-be suicide victims but said that “you can have all the training possible, but this [was] real life.”
It was Prieto’s first real-world experience trying to save someone who wanted to commit suicide. He said that it was extremely stressful trying to convince the boy not to jump and that there were at least three times when he was certain he had lost the battle and that the youth was about to let himself fall.
According to Prieto, the boy was telling him that he was “worthless” and that because of the poverty in his home country of Mexico, he had no way to provide for his infant son. Prieto says that he and his fellow officers must have done something to “touch his heart and his mind” because he eventually relented and climbed down the pole and gave himself up to police.
Prieto says that he is not a hero but was just doing his job because “we were trained to serve and to help. We love our work and we do it with pride.”