If you chose to dine at the Texas Roadhouse in Marana on April 1, you might have been alarmed to see police vehicles swarming the parking lot. No criminal activity was to be seen here, however, as diners were treated to a different kind of police service: the food serving kind.
Marana Police, Pima County Joint Task Force, Oro Valley Police, Marana Explorers, and Marana police volunteers gathered for their annual "Tip-A-Cop" event on Friday to support Southern Arizona Special Olympics. Marana officers handed out donation envelopes to diners and even helped keep glasses and bread baskets full. Representatives from Southern Arizona Special Olympics were also in attendance to speak to diners and thank them for their contributions.
Southern Arizona Special Olympics provides kids with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to train and compete in state, national, or world-wide competitions at no cost. Marana Police Department began supporting Special Olympics over twenty years ago, and nine years ago began the Tip-A-Cop fundraising event at Texas Roadhouse.
"This year, we raised about six thousand dollars," Sergeant Will Hess reported of the night's fundraising efforts. He has been actively involved with the event since its inception.
"Marana Police Department does a lot for our kids in the community," Hess said. "Our youth are important to our future. Through athletics, kids learn teamwork, compassion, and camaraderie, and how to learn through failure and success. These are skills they can then use to lead a prosperous life."
Participating athletes are not charged to compete in Special Olympics. Funds raised by the officers go toward putting on the event and supporting the athletes. The 2016 State Summer Games is May 5-7 and will be held at Raymond Kellis High School in Glendale, Arizona. In addition to fundraising, Marana police officers participate every year in the torch run, and run beside Special Olympians through the Marana community. This year, the Marana torch run is scheduled for May 4.
Josh Montgomery, Director of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, is grateful for the Marana Police Department's involvement.
"Law enforcement is the backbone of our organization, both locally in Arizona, as well as globally," Montgomery said. "Police officers continuously give up their time and resources to help people with intellectual disabilities, and we couldn't be what we are without them."
Tip-A-Cop is one of the many efforts organized by Marana Police Department that focuses on positive police-citizen interaction. Marana police officers often find opportunities to interact with community members outside of the typical traffic stop. They visit regularly with business owners, provide educational opportunities through the Citizens Police Academy, and train high schoolers in the Marana Police Explorers program, to name a few.
"Community policing is a mindset here at the Town of Marana," Police Chief Terry Rozema said. "We talk a lot about serving and protecting our community, and the community needs to trust us before we can effectively do those things. When the community trusts us, they join us in solving problems."
Marana police motorcycles flanked the restaurant entrance for photo opportunities, and spectators were invited to look at Pima Regional SWAT and bomb equipment. Officers answered questions and opened their vehicles for tours. The dashboard of a police vehicle was even covered in traffic citations--although upon closer inspection, those 'citations' were actually recruitment brochures for the Volunteers In Police Service program at the Town of Marana.
Throughout this year's Tip-A-Cop event, it was clear how much Marana's officers enjoyed opportunities like this one. To keep up with all the exciting activities our officers are up to every day, like the Town of Marana and the Marana Police Department on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @TownofMarana and @MaranaPD. Periodically, you can also read stories about the Marana Police Department in the Marana Newsroom.