BONNERS FERRY — Just a simple box of doughnuts. It began as an idea to help make friends when Bonners Ferry Police Officer Mike Martinez started his position as the School Resource Officer. And just like that, Wednesdays became known as doughnut day.
“I thought to myself that this would be a cool tradition to do,” said Martinez. “Maybe if I put them in my office, the kids will come to my office and say hi to me. So the next week I brought in another box of doughnuts. I had to put the chair outside my office with the box of doughnuts, and I would sit in my office.”
The students would stop and ask about the doughnuts and Martinez would tell them to take one. The students would ask him why.
“Just because you are being a respectful student and I appreciate that, and I want you to have one,” Martinez replied to them.
“Now I am putting them in my office and it is a rat race of kids coming into my office every Wednesday morning because it is first come, first served,” said Martinez. “It worked. It got them into my office, got them talking to me, got them comfortable with me. I got to know some of their names.”
The tradition has continued for about two and a half years. As long as the students were respectful, the box of doughnuts would arrive every Wednesday. If they were not, there would be no doughnuts.
“You guys make your own decisions,” Martinez told the students. “If you guys make poor decisions, here is the repercussions. Obviously it is just doughnuts, but this is the real world. If you do bad stuff, people aren’t going to give you things.”
“It gave them something to look forward to. High school is hard for kids, and I get that,” explained Martinez. “A lot of them feel like it is jail. So that gave them something to look forward to in the middle of the week. Even something that small will brighten kids’ days.”
The tradition of Martinez and the doughnuts came to an end last week, as he is leaving the Bonners Ferry Police Department and joining the Idaho State Patrol.
“Yesterday was the last day for doughnuts and I brought two boxes and walked around the hallways and gave them to the kids,” said Martinez. “It was bittersweet. Pun intended on that one.”
This was Martinez’s first job in law enforcement. He started in 2015 after self sponsoring in the academy, and was assigned the badge number “68”, which he thought was a cool significance since his start day was June 8.
“I am third generation law enforcement, so it was always in my blood to do this. I originally wanted to go to Bonner County and work there and then this came open,” said Martinez. “Officer Stolley actually talked me into working here, and I did, and it is one of the best decisions I have made. I absolutely loved working here.”
About a year into his time with the police department, the position of School Resource Officer (SRO) came available. Between law enforcement on his father’s side, and teaching on his mother’s side, Martinez thought that we would be a perfect fit for the job. Although the number one priority of the position is school safety, teaching also comes into play.
“For me, it is the best of both worlds because I love teaching and I love law enforcement,” said Martinez.
“You are flip-flopping between being a counselor and being a teacher,” explained Martinez. “I am teaching kids. I step into classrooms and teach them, whether it is about law, DUI investigations, and I have had some students job shadow me over the years since I have been an SRO, for their senior projects.”
Martinez felt that an important aspect of his job was to be relatable to the students.
“How can I make the most positive influence with the kids so that, down the road, they have it in the back of their head that law enforcement or police officers are something that we want to be around?” said Martinez. “You can look around the nation and all the negativity that law enforcement has gotten. People are afraid to call the cops every once and awhile.”
He explained that people are afraid to call and report a crime, even if they themselves are the victim. Other times they are afraid to call because they are worried about getting into trouble for some small infraction.
“That is why I try to bridge that gap with the youth now,” Martinez explained. “The principals, the vice principals, and all the teachers ... they are just an absolute joy to work with and very proactive with bringing law enforcement in.”
Martinez will take his experiences that he has learned here with him into his new career path. He also hopes to see some of the students again some day, maybe even in law enforcement careers of their own. He has had students come up to him and say they want to become a cop because he makes the job look fun.
He has already seen some of the impact that he has made on students. They have come back to him, a year later, and thanked him for catching them when they had begun to make bad choices in their life. Some of this comes from Martinez’s positive outlook on life and decisions.
“I say this, whether they are juveniles or adults — I don’t take bad people to jail, I take people to jail who have made bad mistakes. I truly believe in that,” said Martinez. “Are there that percentage of people that are just terrible? Yeah, there is. But I believe that everyone that I have taken to jail just made bad mistakes.”
“With the SRO it does touch you a little differently, emotionally, because you are dealing with kids and kids are very delicate situation sometimes,” he continued. “Nobody likes to see a kid at a low point, or in terrible situations, but when you do, and you are able to help them, and you see them down the road in an 180 degree position, it makes all the difference.”
Martinez is excited to move forward with the Idaho State Police, but says that leaving here will be hard. If he has the opportunity to be the trooper here, he said he would do it “in a heartbeat.” The new job will place him in Sandpoint, so he won’t be going far, but for the students and community who have come to know him, it is a sad day. The students at Bonners Ferry High School made him a large card and the staff brought him a Christmas wreath.
“It has been an amazing three and a half years here,” said Martinez. “I have loved every minute of it.”
Looking back on his time in Bonners Ferry, Martinez reflected, “I have said this since day one ... going back to the comment about law enforcement and how dangerous it is, which it does have its dangers, and the negativity it has had. I meet people all the time that say it must be tough working in the community. I say no, this is probably one of the best communities, as a law enforcement officer, that I could have ever picked to work in. Everybody is just so likable, even lovable, pro-law enforcement ... I love this community. I really do.”
“I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, thanks to everyone here. It’s been an awesome three and a half years. I can’t say it any better than that. There are so many words that I can choose, but just to keep it simple — love you guys and thank you for everything,” said Martinez to the community. “Thank you for letting me work here.”