By Raymond O. Cota, Chief of Police
Sedona AZ (September 10, 2014) – “I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service.” This is a segment from the final passage of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics that I committed to uphold and live by when I became a police officer nearly 35 years ago. It was reconfirmed again upon becoming your Chief of Police in July 2010 by affirming my commitment to the Code of Ethics as established by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board which in part states, “I am a servant of the people and I recognize my position as a symbol of public faith. I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the law and serve the people of Arizona.”
Public trust is essential to effective, responsible and professional policing. When trust in the police is high, the community supports and helps the police department in its crime and safety initiatives and activities. When trust is low, the community will question the actions of the police, express mistrust and will be hesitant or unwilling to assist in the department’s public safety mission. Having a police department that fosters high public trust will allow us to maximize the use of our power of influence which focuses on using honor and principles to earn people’s respect and make a positive difference in their lives. The consequence of low trust too often can result in the irresponsible use of our power of control.
As your Police Chief being able to identify the factors that the community considers in determining the amount of trust they place in the police department is a constant focus of mine. As such, I as well as the members of the police department look for every opportunity to engage in activities that foster quality interaction and involvement with all members of our community. Each and every interaction that we have with the community is seen as an opportunity to build and sustain a high level of public trust.
Attending community service and faith-based group meetings, collaborating with business and visitor/tourism organizations, engaging in cooperative and on-going dialogue with our local media, developing neighborhood watch teams, making presentations at home owner association meetings, and having an active role with students, teachers, parents and staff on our local school campuses are just a few of many ways that the police department takes part in and shows care for our community.
I know that not every interaction our department has with an individual or group will be perceived as positive by those involved or even by some who may learn about a particular situation or incident. However, in any circumstance you should always expect the police department to explain why certain courses of action were taken, to listen and seek to understand your questions or concerns, to actively seek out your feedback, to encourage and get your involvement in carrying out our public safety mission, and to always be honest, transparent, and professional. Additionally, you can expect your police department to hold itself accountable to those who we serve and to take timely and appropriate action to correct any matter where we have erred.
Recently at a meeting with our police department supervisors and managers, I spent time talking about the critical responsibilities that we have as the Sedona Police Department. I specifically mentioned that we are not just enforcers of the law, we are guardians of the freedoms that are provided to all under the laws of our State and the U.S. Constitution, that our purpose not only involves the protection of life and keeping the peace but to ensure justice and fairness.
There is a quote attributed to President Calvin Coolidge which states, “No one is compelled to choose the profession of police officer, but having chosen it, everyone is obligated to perform its duties and live up to the high standards of its requirements.” I will always strive to lead and support all the members of the Sedona Police Department to achieve these ideals and know in doing so, we all will live up to ethics of our profession and have the trust from our community to carry out our mission.