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Ride-A-Long with Tucson Police Officer and Reservist Marcos Amado

  • Published
  • By Maj. Aaron Milner
  • 943rd Rescue Group Public Affairs
While growing up, Tech. Sergeant Marcos Amado remembers TV shows which portrayed police officers as the good guys. Today, the Air Force Reservist has taken the high road on his civilian career path as a sworn officer of the law in one of the top 20 most dangerous cities in America.

As an Airman in the Air Force Reserve's 943rd Rescue Group, Sergeant Amado serves as a combat arms training and maintenance (CATM) instructor. With his calm demeanor and adaptable style of teaching, he has helped many qualify on their assigned weapons before deploying to some of the most risky locations in the world.

A Tucson native, Officer Amado has been a police officer for 15 years, 7 of which with the Tucson Police Department, and credits shows like "Starkey and Hutch", "Adam-12" and "Mod Squad" as influences to become a police officer.

"...that had a big draw for me," said Sergeant Amado.

Officer Amado's law enforcement path began when he joined the Army in 1990 eventually becoming a member of the elite 82d Airborne Division, Reconnaissance unit, and graduated from Ranger school. Evidence you can still see in the form of his "Ranger Tab" insignia he wears proudly on the shoulder of his Air Battle Uniform.

He believes the culture of the police force and the military are intertwined which became a natural transition for him when it came time to leave the Army.

"If you think about it, the police rank structure is similar to the military and the moral standards expected from a cop and members of the military are generally higher than the civilian public," said Officer Amado. 

Officer Amado admits he loves his job with the Tucson Police Department but also concedes it is not for everyone.

"This job can be tough with long hours," he said. 

Plus, as I saw firsthand when I accompanied Officer Amado on a ride-a-long one Friday night, the people and situations a police officer deals with on a daily basis doesn't always shine a light on the best of society.

As I sat in Amado's police cruiser at 9 p.m. on Friday night, I couldn't help but think how much the center console, with all its electronic radios, keyboards, and computer screens looked much like our unit's beloved HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. Further comparisons don't stop at the center console; the car is decked out in antennas for devices such as low jack, and the car is equipped with spotlights, a powerful engine, and limited options of moving the seats to be comfortable.

Indistinguishable from the main town of Tucson, the City of South Tucson is a one square mile community within by the City of Tucson and Officer Amado's southwest patrol sector borders the southern boundary of the small enclave. The southern portion of Tucson is known for being heavily influenced by the Hispanic culture, and especially Mexican culture, which makes Officer Amado's seamless ability to switch from English to Spanish invaluable to his department.

Unfortunately, South Tucson also has the unsavory reputation as being one of the most crime ridden areas in the city.

According to Wikipedia, and backed up by the Tucson Police Department on-line blotter, South Tucson has a dangerously high crime rate which the Tucson Police Department is well aware of and has been taking extensive measures to reduce for years.

The efforts appear to be paying off. In 2006, South Tucson was on par or exceeding Camden, New Jersey's, "the most dangerous city in America", in a majority of crime statistics, but now crime in nearly all categories is dropping. Much of the thanks go to a more aggressive police presence and local community activism taking steps to avert youths from joining gangs.

Although violence is dropping, it doesn't stop local thugs from taking advantage of situations.

The day prior to my ride-a-long with Officer Amado, an armed kidnapping occurred within the southern Tucson district. Later that day, the kidnapped victim escaped and led police to the multiple suspects' house. This was just a couple hours before Officer Amado's 9 p.m. to 7a.m. shift was about to end.

"A call for all officers with rifles to gather at a location and stand by for more information went out over the police net" he recounts. His shift did not end until 11a.m., a full four hours beyond his scheduled off duty time.

Unpredictable events make Officer Amado's ability to successful attend all unit training assemblies (UTA) even more impressive. A UTA is the weekend drill training that Airmen serving in Reserve units must attend as part of their Reserve commitment to the Air Force Reserve.

"With careful planning well in advance, I have been able to balance my role as a police officer and traditional reservist pretty well," said Officer Amado.

He admits it's a balancing act at times when he has a long shift, attends a UTA, then reports back for his police job at the end of a weekend, but having a positive attitude keeps him in good graces with both his military and police supervisors.

It's that same attitude and demeanor that serves him well as a cop when dealing with the public. I witnessed on several occasions Officer Amado putting suspects and victims at ease throughout the night which immediately resulted in the individuals relaxing, making often intense situations less volatile.

"As a cop, you need to have the gift of gab and the ability to read people." To that, this author would add the gift of humor, thick skin, and ears like a bat.

As we were responding to one call, Officer Amado saw two vehicles stopped at a traffic light blocking a turn lane. He spoke to the occupants of the first vehicle in Spanish to move the vehicles out of the way of traffic and wait for another officer to respond. As we speed off to continue responding to the original call and as we were half way down the block in an accelerating police car an occupant from the front car yelled, "She just hit me!".

Officer Amado immediately turned the police cruiser around, and began to pursue a silver car fleeing the scene of the vehicle accident.

A flash of the cars strobe lights and siren persuaded the silver car to pull over and stop. Officer Amado approached the vehicle in typical cop fashion with one hand on his pistol and a flashlight in the other. After talking to the driver and taking a quick glance inside the driver's vehicle it was evident the driver was showing all the signs of extreme intoxication.

Later, as the driver of the silver car leaned up against a police car, realizing how much trouble she could be in, it was Officer Amado's humor and unruffled tone that eventually calmed her down and ever so slightly she began to cooperate with the officers on scene.
Jokingly he said in Spanish, "Are you part of the Siñaloa Cartel?" (one of the largest drug trafficking cartels in Mexico). The young lady giggled, said no, and began to relax. Unfortunately for her, she continued to refuse the officers advice of taking a field sobriety or a breathalyzer test, so she took a short trip to the police station where with the help of a court ordered warrant she provided an unwilling blood sample to test her blood alcohol level.

As the night transitioned into early morning, calls continued to come into the police dispatch. The next call we responded to was a possible domestic violence case at an apartment complex within his sector.

Again, with his calm demeanor and humor he turned a potentially explosive situation into a composed and orderly detention of one individual whom he later booked into the local jail.

I was fortunate to see a "slow" night even though all signs pointed to an exciting full moon- fueled Friday night and Saturday morning. 'Slow' to Officer Amado means he was able to grab an early morning breakfast with me, his ride-a-long passenger. So as I sat there with a cop at a local midnight breakfast establishment he told me stories of humorous police situations involving rookie cops. Although few cops like to admit it, they were all once rookies, all with stories of mayhem and pranks the older veteran cops would pull on the unsuspecting rookies.

Officer/Technical Sergeant Amado's path to the 943rd Rescue Group is as varied as the next Reservist. What makes us all the same is our desire to serve in the military regardless of if its full- time or part-time.

What makes a traditional reservist unique is the balance between family, the military, and their civilian jobs. Much of the credit for a successful military career can be attributed to the families and employers of the military member as much as the military member themselves. It's because of the support from family members like Tech. Sgt. Amado wife Diana and his four sons, Marcos, Adam, Vincent, and Gavino, we are able to keep the peace both at home and abroad.

With Reservist like Sergeant Amado in units all over the world, it's no wonder we have the best trained and highest motivated "Citizen Airman" in the world.

Next time you see a cop, thank him or her for their service; they may be a fellow Reservist in between drill weekends as four additional members in the 943rd RQG are also Citizen Airman police officers.

To follow the 943rd RQW, a geographically seperated unit from the 920th Rescue Wing, please find us onFacebook and Twitter.