Story by Alex Landeen:

Located in Pima County, Ariz., along Interstate 10 and just northwest of the Tucson metro area, the town of Marana first received documented recognition in 1890 by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Named after the Spanish word meaning “jungle, a tangle or thicket” by railroad workers as they chopped through the thick desert brush over a century ago, the town now covers approximately 127 square miles and has a population just over 38,000. Consisting of 109 employees, with 81 sworn/certified and 28 support staff, the Marana Police Department (MPD) has the gear, training and dedication to be a premier force within southern Arizona.

Approximately 85 percent of Marana’s population lives within three residential areas—Continental Ranch, Gladden Farms and Dove Mountain—which cover about half of the total square miles within the town’s jurisdiction. The remaining half consists of a mix of rural farmland and desert. This diverse landscape leads to unique challenges that the MPD must face.

First and foremost, the size of a patrol area covered by a single patrol officer varies from 10 to 30 square miles with between 1,500 and 15,000 residents, with backup units anywhere from five to 15 minutes away depending on the location and traffic conditions. Because of the vast area and sometimes remote locations, a “simple” traffic stop can quickly turn into a critical incident. Rural areas with poorly marked addresses and split roads with potentially miles of distance between ends, topped by the rapid growth of the area, make it very important for officers to be familiar with the area as well as the overlapping jurisdictions that occur.

Also, the northern area of Marana is one of the main thoroughfares for drugs and illegal alien trafficking due to its proximity to the border with Mexico. All of these factors combine to make Marana a potentially dangerous place to be a police officer.

Guns & Gear

A harsh and potentially threatening environment requires reliable gear. The MPD issues its officers Glock 22s and has G23s and G27s available for assignments needing smaller, more concealable weapons. Currently, the department also issues AR-15-style rifles in 5.56mm NATO with red-dot sighting systems and backup iron sights. The standard 12-gauge Remington 870 shotgun is also available for issue in two different configurations, lethal and
less lethal.

As a rule of thumb, the department makes every effort to ensure that both rifles and shotguns are equally assigned to each of the patrol squads, making it easier to have one or both deployed at a critical incident.

To ensure that officers have equipment they need and are comfortable using, the department also allows personally owned weapons to be carried as primary weapons as long as they are manufactured by reputable companies and meet certain requirements, such as being within a range of calibers, i.e., 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP for duty pistols. Secondary weapons are also authorized and have to meet the same requirements as the primary weapon; however, for these systems the calibers of .380 ACP and .357 Magnum have been added along with revolvers.

An officer can carry their personally owned rifle as long as it is an AR-15 from a reputable manufacturer in 5.56mm NATO. Accessories are a little more restrictive, however. Backup iron sights are required, and a holographic sight system can be used as long as its magnification does not exceed 4X.

Vehicles deployed by the department are a mix of Ford Crown Victorias, Ford Expeditions, Chevy Caprices and Chevy Tahoes. All are equipped with mobile digital communicators (MDCs), radars, MVXs (in-car audio/video camera systems), GPS, stop sticks and individual first-aid kits. Half of the SUVs are four-wheel drives, and at least one is allocated per squad.

The department has ATVs and a four-person Gator for deployment into remote areas that a larger four-wheel-drive vehicle would have difficulty traversing. Currently, the department is in the process of creating a search and rescue team. This team is all voluntary and consists of patrol officers trained and equipped to handle any lost hikers within the extensive trail system of the Tortilla Mountains. The department’s motor unit has a mix of BMW and Victory motorcycles. Of note, the Victory bikes are the first in the country with the black paint scheme and engraved badge logo on the engine. Many area departments are now ordering them.

The department has several different assignments available to its officers. There are currently four K9s, with three of them being dual-purpose dogs and the other searching for drugs only. The department has a Directed Action Response Team (DART) that conducts surveillance investigations of burglary/property crimes, prostitution and drugs within the jurisdiction.

The MPD is also a participating agency in the Pima Regional SWAT team, which is comprised of seven LE agencies and has paramedics from multiple agencies that act as tactical emergency medics (TEMs). Currently, the MPD has one team leader, two operators, a negotiator, one explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) investigator and one EOD tech on the team.

The team is a collateral duty assignment and is staffed by four tactical squads, two negotiator squads, a medical squad, an EOD squad and a K9 squad. The team has 50 slots allotted to tactical personnel, including nine tactical sergeants. The current tactical assignment is 35 operators.

Public Servants

The tactical element of the team trains 16 hours a month, with a full week of training sometime in the year. Specialty assignments have additional training every month or quarter. The Pima Regional SWAT team runs a 120-hour basic SWAT school for its members that is open to current law enforcement personnel from other agencies. Additionally, they host specialty schools and trainings for breachers, snipers, grenadiers, shield operators, rappelling teams and TEMs. Each tactical operator is issued a Glock 22 and a select-fire M4.

Every law enforcement agency is dedicated to their community, but one would be hard pressed to find a better example than the MPD. Three years ago, the department overhauled its mission. In the words of Marana’s Chief of Police Terry Rozema, “The goal was to create an entire police force that is committed to the most fundamental principle of the profession; namely, to help people. While there are many titles attributed to our profession (police officer, public safety officer, peace officer, law enforcement officer, cop), none of them encapsulate the purpose of policing more succinctly than the title of public servant. We are striving to create a mindset of service excellence and an attitude of humility.”

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