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Our people: Career in criminal justice

It hasn't been all that long ago that Jon Harris and his wife Katherine were talking on an island in the French West Indies.

The law enforcement/tactical military man had recently been medically retired.

Harris remarked he'd been "shooting all his life" and wondered what his next career move would be.

His wife suggested he become a lawyer.

Harris took her advice.

It's part of the story of how the policeman/career military man came to work in eastern New Mexico in the Ninth Judicial District Attorney's office as an assistant district attorney.

Harris shared his story with The News Tuesday.

Q: What's your home town?

A: I was born in Houston but haven't been back there since 1985.

Q: What brought you to eastern New Mexico?

A: The job actually brought me here. I was hired out of the Texas Tech School of Law into the Clovis office of the Law Office of the New Mexico Public Defender. I was there a little over a year. Then in 2021 I got a position with the District Attorney's office.

Q: Tell us about your family.

A: I met my wife, Dr. Katherine Harris, in Houston, we got married in 1983. We have one son named Joel, a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. He spent 10 years in the U. S. Army and now is in business for himself in Connecticut. He got married in 2010. He and his wife have two children.

We set down roots here, we bought a nice home here and we plan on this being a permanent thing.

My wife, who has a doctorate in education, does transition assistance as a civilian for the military all over the country.

We kid, "It's her turn to deploy now, not mine."

Q: Tell us about your military service.

A: I went into law enforcement right out of high school and did that until 1985 when I joined the Army.

I went in as military policeman, military intelligence and a Russian linguist, that's why I was posted to Berlin.

After the (Berlin) wall came down I stayed in Germany for a couple of years.

I was then at Fort Dix, New Jersey where I was Chief of Military Police investigations for the New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York area.

I left the military in 1995.

Q: So what did you do career-wise after you left the military?

A: We ran a paintball business in New Jersey, moved it to Texas where we opened a 122-acre paintball field with military simulation including two active helicopters. It was known nationally.

Then I went back law enforcement in counter-narcotics, I was a canine officer.

I was injured doing civilian contract work in Afghanistan. I left military work when I was medically retired. I was told my tactical career was over.

Then my wife and I went on vacation to our favorite vacation spot in Saint Martin in the Caribbean.

We talked.

"I've been shooting all my life, what do I do now?" I said..

"Why don't you go to law school, you've always wanted to be a lawyer," she said.

So I took her advice.

I was accepted to Texas Tech law school in 2017.

After that my job was studying for exams.

Q: Your law career began in the public defender's office then you switched to the prosecution...

A: In prosecution, it's never the same, there's always a wide variety of cases, I'll never run out of business.

I make sure that people's rights are protected and try to make sure we take care of the victims, give them a voice.

In my position I have a lot of autonomy.

Prosecution is a much better place. This is where I am meant to be.

Q: You believed you had the aptitude to be an attorney?

A: I taught criminal justice while I was in the military: Central Texas College, City College of Chicago and University of Maryland all overseas.

I always liked law enforcement, I liked reading the law, it was a natural progession to the legal field.

I wasn't going to be a cop anymore, I'm not physically capable anymore.

Q: If you thought you could change the mind of someone leaning toward crime what would you tell them?

A: I'm kind of old school, maybe it's about how old I am. It's a "risk-reward" scenario. What is the cost of the action they're going to take? Unfortunately most people don't think about that.

They don't consider the cost: To themselves, to the victim, their family, their children their future.

One bad decision can affect a lot of people.

Q: What is your philosophy of law enforcement?

A: As a law enforcement officer I generally saw people on their absolute worst day. But this is a philosophy I have always kept and I keep it to this day: The person you are arresting is innocent until proven guilty. As an officer, you must consider they may not have done what they're accused of, so they have to be treated fairly. You can't take any shortcuts.

Q: What is your philosophy of life?

A: You are always responsible for your own actions and every choice you make. It is not someone else's fault.

Q: Do you have a favorite saying?

A: There's ten reasons why you can't do something. But the first one is, "I said so." The other nine don't count.

I got that from my father and I used it with my son.

Q: What's your favorite food?

A: I'm somewhat of a chef, I'm writing a cookbook.

I cook for relaxation.

I make everything from scratch, I make my own pasta, soups, gravies, eggrolls, whatever.

I do a lot of Oriental food, Italian food, seafood.

I really don't have a favorite, but I like to cook.