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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the Goodyear (AZ) Police Department as the May 2018 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest. The winning photo features Officer Robert McCabe engaging in a meaningful conversation with a citizen during a Coffee with a Cop event in August 2017.
When Sergeant Jamie Benker talks about the Goodyear Police Department, there is no doubt that he loves what he does. As the lead sergeant for the Community Service Unit, Benker is responsible for planning and executing the department’s numerous community outreach efforts, as part of its larger mission, which is to “contribute to the quality of life through diligent patrol, community oriented policing and enforcement of law to maintain the peace and protect the rights of those we serve1 .”
Just 30 miles west of Phoenix, Goodyear is a growing suburb that was Forbes Magazine’s fourth fastest growing suburban city under 100,000 in the nation between 2000 and 20062 . Companies including Amazon, Macy’s-Bloomingdale’s, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and REI have opened locations in Goodyear, making it an attractive place for jobseekers3 . The population of approximately 78,000 residents keeps growing as the city continues its efforts to attract more businesses and present itself as a great place to work and live.
The city’s most recent Citizen Satisfaction Survey revealed that 97% of residents feel safe in their neighborhood4, a nod to Goodyear Police Chief Jerry Geier and the approximately 115 officers that work hard to maintain public safety. “Our chief has a good philosophy,” said Benker. “He wants us to be the premier law enforcement agency in the West Valley.”
Geier has served as the department’s police chief since 2012 and, according to Benker, brings “a ton of bigger department experience” to Goodyear. “We have an ongoing joke here – never play chess with the chief – because he’s always four steps ahead of us,” laughed Benker.
Benker attributes the department’s positive community relationships to Geier’s proactive leadership. “He’s very dynamic. He adapts to everything. We love it as a department because we’re growing.”
As the city grows and new officers join the department, the community policing philosophy remains a beacon for officers like Benker. The Community Service Unit is responsible for encouraging greater participation in community policing and problem-solving projects. To do that, the Unit engages in a number of different programs and events, such as Neighborhood Block Watch, monthly homeowners’ association meetings, Special Olympics, Citizens Academy, Teen Academy, the Explorers Program, and many others. The Unit encourages officers to incorporate community policing in their day-to-day activities. “We pride ourselves on high visibility. We have a take home car program, so we’re allowed to take our cars home and seeing a car parked in the neighborhood helps deter people from doing something they shouldn’t,” Benker shared.
The winning photo features another popular event among Goodyear residents – Coffee with a Cop – a national movement that encourages dialogue between community and police. “It allows people to come in and talk to us freely,” Benker described. “People don’t see the police on their birthday or Christmas. They see us on their worst day ever. If we invite them to coffee and just hang out, it allows them to talk to us and not worry about what the outcome of the conversation will be.”
Benker, who is originally from Massachusetts and has eleven years of law enforcement experience, says Goodyear’s community policing philosophy combined with great leadership is what keeps him motivated. “Leadership is a huge component of this police department. If Chief starts to see some leadership in people, he allows for cross training. The better the officer, the better the department.”
The COPS Office congratulates the Goodyear Police Department for being one of the 12 winners of the COPS Office 2018 Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.
Written with contributions from Goodyear Police Department Community Policing Unit Sergeant Jamie Benker. Photo courtesy of Geoff Kinnerk, City of Goodyear.
1. “2016 Annual Report,” City of Goodyear Police, accessed April 12, 2018, http://www.goodyearaz.gov/home/showdocument?id=17601.
2. “America’s Fastest-Growing Suburbs,” Forbes, July 16, 2007, https://www.forbes.com/2007/07/16/suburbs-growth-housing-forbeslife-cx_mw_0716realestate.html#4f58edf9338f.
3. “Major Employers,” City of Goodyear Arizona Economic Development, accessed April 12, 2018, http://www.developgoodyearaz.com/why-goodyear/major-employers.
4. “Living in Goodyear,” City of Goodyear Arizona Economic Development, accessed April 12, 2018, http://www.developgoodyearaz.com/why-goodyear/live-in-goodyear.
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