Basketball, Policing Fills This Cop’s Cup with Contentment

Art Burgos has been working for the So Pas Police Department for the past 18 years and in all that time, one of the best assignments is the one he has now as a school resource officer (SRO).

That is until he added the South Pasadena High School freshman assistant basketball coach to his responsibilities. Now, he says, doing both, he’s in heaven.

“The SRO is a really good assignment,” Burgos said recently during an hour-long interview in The Review office in South Pasadena where he discussed both the SRO job along with being the freshman team’s assistant basketball. 

“The first few months as the SRO was a learning experience for me. I am the liaison, the main point of contact at the police station if there are any school-related issues in terms of crime. I do counseling sessions too with kids. Again, I’m not a certified counselor but I mentor them. And it’s for the three elementary schools, middle school and high school.”

Editor’s Note: The Review agreed to protect Det. Burgos identity by not publishing his photograph or listing any personal details that could jeopardize ongoing investigations.

After only a short visit, it becomes clear that Burgos deals with a lot more kids than those five schools. He also works with kids in local private schools as well as preschools.

“We have almost 5,000 kids in all five schools,” he said. “And on top of that we have small private preschools around town. About a dozen of them actually…so it’s not just the five schools. I handle all the school-related issues for all the kids here in So Pas.” He estimates that he deals with about 6,500 kids throughout South Pasadena.

“It’s a good assignment,” he said again. “I enjoy doing it. I enjoy talking to students, troubled youth. You know, at the end of the day, you find solutions. At least, I try to give them advice that will help them out with what they are going through.”

The 43-year-old Burgos said that the ultimate fulfillment comes when a young person looks at him and says he or she wants to be a police officer.

“The pinnacle of being an SRO is when seniors ask me how they can be a police officer,” he said. “For me, I think if one of the students I’m mentoring, I’m helping out, turns out to be a police officer one of these days, I’ve done my job as an SRO.”

One of the ironies of Burgos’s life is that he didn’t initially want to be a police officer. He was going to be a doctor. In fact, he finished three years of pre-med before changing his career path.

His father, who’d been paying for his education up to that point was disappointed at first but quickly understood, telling his son that he had to be happy.

“I was going to be doctor,” he said. “I was in pre-med and I told my dad medicine was not the right path for me. I didn’t want to waste his money anymore because he was paying for it. He was upset for about a week. Then he told me ‘at least you’re honest with yourself.’ He finally accepted it.”

And the rest as they say is history.

“So far, the assignment of the SRO has been the most rewarding,” he said. “Every day I’m talking to kids. Some of them are asking for help. Some of them are asking advice. At the end of the day, that’s what the job is all about, helping kids.”

Then it was time for the fates to tap him on the shoulder again with a nod toward basketball.

“I’ve loved basketball ever since high school,” Burgos said with a smile. “I played in high school. I still watch it on a regular basis. When I was thinking of other things to do while I’m the SRO I knew some of the past SROs were football coaches. So I approached my captain and asked if I could help out with the basketball team. So far, it has been the most fun. I travel with the team. I go to away games and I’m in the gym. Dealing with the freshman, the freshman boys are so funny. At that age they are so receptive. I can feel that they truly enjoy my company.”

Burgos approached Greg Luna, So Pas High athletic director, to be the assistant coach. Luna in turn floated the idea for Burgos to be the head coach.

“He wanted to give me the full-time coaching spot,” Burgos said. “At that time they didn’t have a coach. But that is a full-time job. And it’s a paid position and I just wanted to do this on a volunteer basis. I don’t want to get paid. I just want to help out with passing the ball or write up plays, run scrimmages, travel with the team when they play away games. I just wanted to help out.”

Luna agreed and put him to work as the South Pasadena High School freshman basketball assistant coach.

And the team did well. They play eight games and posted a record of 4-4.

“We did well,” he said. “I must tell you that the first time I saw the kids I was kind of worried. It was preseason and they are freshman, but they turned out really well.”

Burgos now has two jobs that he loves. One he gets paid and the other he does for fun and for free.

“Mixing up these two things by helping the youth as an SRO and at the same time I’m enjoying coaching a basketball team, helping the kids play basketball,” he said. “I am fulfilling my two passions. It’s one of those special things in life. I am content.”