All too often, police officers are seen as revenue generators for the municipality. Writing tickets and making arrests, they are viewed by the public strictly as enforcers. However, some officers are really making a difference in the communities they patrol. Mesa Police Officer Brandon Mendoza, killed early Monday morning by a wrong-way driver, is a prime example.
Chris Quasula, branch director of the Grant Woods — Mesa Branch Boys and Girls Club in Mendoza’s beat, said he first started interacting with Mendoza about two years ago. Mendoza started a cleanup effort at nearby Guerrero Rotary Park. The resulting committee that formed around the project has done a world of good for the surrounding community, according to Quasula.
“His big thing was getting the park kind of refurbished, and some more police presence there … getting the park equipment redone, getting the baseball field done, and stuff like that,” said Quasula. “He very much cared about this neighborhood.”
Quasula said Mendoza hosted regular community meetings at the club, and volunteered time and resources for public dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Sue Douglas, administrator of the Mesa Arts Academy, said Mendoza was a huge influence on the school, and on the neighborhood children. She recounted how he dealt with a ring of bicycle thieves and put an end to local kids getting their bicycles stolen.
“What I’m going to miss most is the impact that he had on our neighborhood kids, because he made them braver; he gave them hope. I don’t know what hours he worked, but it seemed like he was always there,” Douglas said. “He educated our kids the way educators can’t, because he was out there for them on the street.”
She also told a story about how neighborhood kids kept knocking down the gate to the school, which for safety reasons must be closed during school hours. The school’s cameras were not powerful enough to capture usable images of the perpetrators, but Mendoza got a stronger camera and mounted it on the roof of the school. Douglas remembered him calling her, on the day of her daughter’s wedding, to ask if she wanted to prosecute the vandals.
“He was just an extraordinary person in terms of not giving up when there was an issue that was difficult to solve,” Douglas said. “He was able to somehow create that bond with our youth, where they trusted him. His vigilance and his bravery made our kids braver.”
Steve Jimenez, who founded the youth baseball program in the area, said the park had a lot of problems with transients and vagrants. When he contacted local police, Mendoza was dispatched to help.
“The next day they had Brandon over there, he was assigned to help rid the park of this activity,” Jimenez said. “He made this huge commitment to the job that needed to be done.”
Jimenez said Mendoza’s affect on the park was instrumental in making it the quiet, peaceful place it is today.
He went to the park almost daily, drove up, showed his police presence, even on his off hours,” Jimenez said. “It was tremendous that somebody was dedicated like that.”