This last year has been unprecedented in the challenges facing our country, all our citizens, and law enforcement as a profession. From the pandemic and ensuing emergency orders to an unthinkable act committed by a law enforcement officer igniting nationwide protests and riots, to one of the most contentious presidential elections in the history of the United States, law enforcement has been at the center of it all. In addition to all the regular issues law enforcement handles, navigating just one of these major issues would be daunting, but navigating all three has seen law enforcement officers under enormous stress.
I am extremely proud to say that the men and women of the Sierra Vista Police Department have handled these stresses with extreme grace and dedication to the Sierra Vista community. These selfless public servants increased their efforts to ensure the safety and security of Sierra Vista and recommitted themselves to the Service with Honor program.
Both department members and the department itself stayed committed to maintaining the standard of policing this community expects and deserves. When the pandemic directly affected our members, officers filled in for other shifts, came in early, or stayed late. Records personnel implemented a robust cross-training program to ensure continuity when any member is absent. Animal control took on duties once assigned to volunteers and DOC inmates, adjusted operating hours, and found alternate ways to stay in touch with the public. Flexible schedules allowed some members to keep working from home while addressing other personal pandemic-related issues such as homeschooling and healthcare.
I witnessed department members naturally shouldering the burden as they simply did the work that was required to keep the department running smoothly. The commitment was apparent not only to me as the chief, but it’s also evident in our annual numbers. We continued the trend of decreasing citizen-initiated calls, while increasing our proactive officer-initiated calls. Part I crimes, traffic citations and warnings, and accidents were down, while both the clearance and stolen property recovery rates increased. While some of the decrease in calls is simply due to fewer people being out and about, that reduction and the increase in productivity is a result of officers taking the opportunity to employ proactive policing whenever possible.
The social and political climates impacted some public interaction with our department and highlighted the focus on our officers’ training and response in high liability areas. When inquiries came in regarding our use of force policies and subject management training, our officers and command staff did a phenomenal job in explaining how we are trained to act in the most dangerous situations and, most importantly, why. I’m proud of our commitment to remove bias from policing and keep lines of communication open with all facets of the community. We work hard to maintain the dialogue and accessibility in order to have the necessary conversations with the public – to hear their concerns and to educate them on our training. Our department culture and ongoing commitment to the CALEA accreditation process encourages a continual process of review and reassessment, enabling us to stay in front of these conversations.
As an unparalleled year comes to a close and we enter 2021, our department continues to embrace changes and keep improving. We will be implementing AzTraCS (Arizona Traffic and Criminal Software), an electronic citation and collision program that allows officers to quickly scan driver’s licenses and vehicle registration instead of manually inputting information to complete forms. We will begin our first full year of National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) reporting and will formalize a new internal employee team to address department improvements. With a renewed sense of optimism, we are ready to face whatever challenges the future may bring.
Adam D. Thrasher
Chief of Police