From Altar Server to OSP Trooper: Damian Aranda Embarks on Law Enforcement Career

Damian Aranda, 23, always knew he wanted to help other people, starting as an altar server within the Catholic church.

Then, as he studied for the priesthood at Bishop White Seminary on the Gonzaga University campus in Spokane.

And even after discerning that priesthood was not in his future, Aranda believed he could accomplish his goal through a career in law enforcement.

On Jan. 26, Aranda graduated from the Basic Police Class at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, a proud member of BP Class 432. It was a 16-week program, but as a Recruit Oregon State Police Trooper, Aranda had already completed a seven week OSP pre-academy training program, and this week began another 2½ week OSP program.

Aranda admitted all of the training was difficult, especially the OSP pre-academy (much like a military boot camp) where recruits were pushed to their limits mentally and physically day and night.

Aranda said that working for one summer with Linn County Parks and for about six months with the Linn County Juvenile Department prepared him for the challenges.

Aranda landed a job as a seasonal park ranger in 2022 after graduating from Gonzaga University with a degree in philosophy and criminal justice. He worked at several parks, but mostly at Sunnyside.

New OSP Recruit Trooper Damian Aranda with Linn County Road Department retiree Allen Burger of Lebanon.

“It was a great job,” Aranda said. “I mowed grass, cleaned restrooms, fueled boats and helped campers. There were lots of nice people and from many different backgrounds, but I also learned how to deal with people when they are angry and upset. Sometimes they aren’t going to be satisfied no matter what you tell them. It toughened me up and really helped me learn about serving the public.”

Aranda said he was also proud that the county trusted him to pick up money from the camping fee collection boxes.

“It made me feel good knowing they trusted me,” he said.

It was during that time that Aranda began doing “ride-alongs” with area law enforcement agencies. He liked all of them, but soon realized the Oregon State Police was his calling.

After the summer job closed, Aranda took a part-time job with the Juvenile Department and says he learned a great deal there as well.

“I enjoyed working with the kids and I hope made a positive impact on them,” Aranda said. “I never felt unsafe, but you are always aware that even though they are 12 to 17 years old, some have done some pretty bad things. I was an adult figure and I hope also a mentor. I could listen to them.”

Aranda said he will bring the same philosophy of “showing kindness, compassion and planting a seed of change” into his OSP career.

Aranda said the most difficult parts of his law enforcement training were “a lack of sleep” and instructors picking apart every single thing any of the recruits did, looking for their weak spots and building upon them.

Recruits can be disciplined for having a ballpoint pen clicked in the wrong position, or for having threads showing on their uniform. They marched in unison everywhere they went.

Aranda said training is intense, from firearms to answering mock calls or traffic crashes.

Recruits lived on campus at pre-academy (he often slept in a sleeping bag so he would not mess up his bed sheets) and would iron the bed sheets and pillowcases at 5 a.m. so drill instructors would not find something to discipline him over.

OSP Recruit Trooper Damian Aranda stands at attention during graduation ceremony on Jan. 26 in Salem.

The class training coordinator, Rick Igou, said that about half of the 38 graduates have college degrees and half have served in the military. Graduates will serve with OSP, city police departments and sheriff’s offices from Portland to Medford and from Brookings to Pendleton. In all, they represented 18 law enforcement agencies.

Igou said this was an exceptional group, dedicated to succeeding and motivated to learn.

“They were serious when needed and humorous when appropriate,” Igou said.

Guest speaker Washington County Sheriff Caprice Massey said the classes’ badges are a “symbol of hope and justice for your communities.”

She admonished the graduates that their chosen professions are “not easy jobs.”

“You need to take care of yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said. “We are a family bonded by a common purpose to help each other.”

Aranda is the son of Rene Aranda of Lebanon and Carrie Aranda of rural Lebanon. He has 11 brothers and sisters, and was homeschooled.

He will work out of the Salem OSP office, serving Marion, Polk and a part of Linn County.

“I’m very excited. This is something I have waited for a long time,” Aranda said. “I feel very blessed. It has been a lot of hard work.”