“Officer Mendoza. Thank you for all you did in the neighborhood. Everyone I know that is on the ‘other side of the tracks’ will miss you so much! You truly were a good cop! See you in heaven.”
The writer wrote this on the makeshift memorial at Mesa’s Guerrero Park to honor Mesa Police Officer Brandon Mendoza who was killed Monday in a collision with a driver who was being pursued by police. Mendoza was headed home after spending a shift in his beat “on the other side of the tracks.” The beat he lived and loved.
I hadn’t been back to Mendoza’s beat in years. I worked the same beat in southcentral Mesa in the early ’80s.
Mendoza was an old-time beat cop in the 21st century. It was his beat, and he took responsibility for the safety and welfare of the people he chose to serve. His beat was a place that in some ways progress had forgotten. It’s where most of the people are poor, but full of life and who often struggle to survive from day to day. A place where the cop on the beat needs to be more than an anonymous face behind dark glasses in a black and white, or who only comes around when there’s trouble. A place where if the police hope to make any difference in the lives of the people they serve, an officer must truly care and prove it every day.
Mendoza was that kind of cop. The kind of cop whose worth isn’t measured in the number of tickets he writes or arrests he makes, rather how his presence, service and passion for policing makes the people safe to live their lives without fear.
The well-deserved accolades are pouring in for Mendoza’s community involvement, especially saving Guerrero Park from gang members. He targeted crime, criminals and those who would steal the quality of life from the people on his beat.
Stories of Mendoza’s police work are complimented with stories of his targeting slumlords, providing athletic equipment for kids and being a watchdog for those who couldn’t care for themselves. Not a job for most, but the best job in the police department if one has the calling to be beat cop like Mendoza.
Officers with Mesa PD I spoke to used words like “invested,” “ownership,” “bravery,” and “courage” to describe Mendoza’s commitment to his job. They said he took it upon himself to solve problems and not wait for the system to make corrections. And Mendoza wasn’t afraid to seek help from other city, county or state agencies and pioneer new efforts to make his beat safe. He took the lead in problem solving. One veteran street cop told me Mendoza was truly “a beautiful human being.” Commitment is a word that epitomizes Mendoza.
The Mesa PD leadership encouraged Mendoza’s style of policing to be the “gold standard” when it came to the department’s community based policing efforts.
I was told Mendoza was a “role model who did what needed to be done” for other officers, including those in leadership. He showed the people on his beat adversity could be overcome.
One officer told me Mendoza’s presence and neighborhood involvement swayed more than one kid away from gang life.
One retired state police detective told me Mendoza’s efforts with the Mesa Police Explorers were noble and exemplified his commitment to Mesa’s youth and the city’s quality of life.
Pretty much everyone knew his name and respected Mendoza, even the bad guys he worked so hard to keep in check.
Praise from co-workers and community leaders following Mendoza’s untimely death are well deserved.
For me though, what sums Mendoza’s life and passions best are the words from his memorial on the beat he loved and where the people loved him. “Thank you for all you did in the neighborhood. You truly were a good cop!”
• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.