About the Surprise Police Department
The Surprise Police Department consists of four divisions headed by the Chief of Police. The Chief is supported by one assistant chief, four commanders, seven lieutenants and a civilian manager, to ensure the consistent operation of the four divisions.
The largest division within the department is the Field Operations Division. Uniformed patrol officers, K-9 teams, Animal Control, Park Ranger Services, Prisoner Transport and Traffic Enforcement Units operate out of this division.
The Criminal Investigations Division includes detectives from the Crimes Against Persons Unit, the Property Crimes Unit, and the Neighborhood Response Unit. Additionally, the Victim Advocacy Unit (VAU), Crime Analyst, and Crime Scene Specialist are also assigned to this division.
The Professional Development Division is comprised of the Training and Recruiting Unit as well as the CALEA Accreditation manager. A police sergeant, several training officers, a civilian training coordinator and a recruitment officer make up the Training and Recruiting Unit.
The Professional Standards Unit is led by the Assistant Chief of Police and two police sergeants. The assigned personnel are responsible for the inspections and audits of the department’s operations. Citizen comments and concerns as well as internal complaints are reviewed and investigated by the members of this unit.
The Administrative Services Division is responsible for maintaining the department’s budget and daily administrative support functions of the Department. Within this division are the Property and Evidence Unit, the Records Unit, Communications Unit, Technical Services Sections, Community Relations and Crime Prevention Unit, Public Information Officer, and the Citizens Patrol.
The Surprise Marshal’s Office was founded in 1960 and six marshals provided law enforcement for the Town of Surprise. The Marshal’s Office evolved into the Surprise Police Department in November 1991.
1960 - While the town council waited six years to address the issue of fire protection, it immediately established a police department, appointing Ross Hornsby to serve as the first town marshal. Until Joe Butler donated a police car, Hornsby put a red light on his father’s pink Cadillac when patrolling the streets.
In 1974, Skip Luttrell began a sixteen-year career as Marshal after serving as Deputy for three years. Operating with limited funds, like the fire department, the Marshal’s Office also became creatively resourceful. Luttrell purchased second-hand cars for $300 from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and repaired and outfitted vehicles with recycled parts. Officers bought their own weapons and other equipment such as flashlights. At that time, all shifts shared one portable radio. Since it required eight hours of charging daily, at least one officer went without. In a cramped office, with one desk and a manual typewriter they shared with DPS, deputies served the town.
What did small-town police work entail? In 1975, Curtis James began a thirty-year career with the City of Surprise, bringing the total number of employees in the Marshal’s Office to five. Operating alone on his graveyard shift, James found calls few and far between. He recalls one month when he answered only four. John Myers, hired just before James, knew that in many cases, he could take juvenile offenders to their parents, who could be counted on to handle the problem. Part of policing involved rounding up loose livestock. Myers found himself occasionally herding cattle and horses.
In 1990, after years of operating as a small-town police force, the Marshal’s Office experienced a significant change in leadership. New City Manager Richard McComb hired Garvin Arrell to lead the Surprise Police Department. Arrell, a veteran of twenty-five years with the Honolulu Police Department, brought a big-city approach to the job. He revised the rules and regulations based on practices from other cities. He applied for and received federal grants to begin the task of bringing the Department into the electronic age. With only one female police officer, Arrell hired more women and in 2000, promoted the first woman to the position of sergeant. Recognizing the need to improve community relations, public relations and community policing programs were implemented. The Police Department also established a K-9 patrol. To improve response and access, bicycle and motorcycle patrols were established. He also purchased and required officers to wear protective vests. To deal with annexation, beats were established.
When Arrell retired, the city hired Daniel Hughes, a veteran of the Springfield, Illinois Police Department. Chief Hughes implemented many improvements, including a computer aided dispatch system to replace a manual process and investigation guidelines based on solvability factors. Faced with an exploding population, the police force increased in size from 46 to 134, civilian support from 15 to 50, and volunteer staff from 25 to 70.
Like their counterparts in the Fire Department, police personnel contributed to the community in many ways. Terry Vernon, currently a patrol officer, coordinated the Special Olympics Torch Run for many years. Lt. Frank Caldwell established and ran the Police Athletic League or PAL Program for four years. Using a bus purchased by the City, he took children on outings such as roller skating, movies, and overnight trips to Disneyland. Working with others in the community, he raised funds to keep the program going.
In 1997, Surprise established a volunteer organization to support the police department. Beginning with seven volunteers, the Surprise Citizen’s Patrol now has approximately 70 volunteers, who assist the police with administrative and patrol duties. In the latter function, they conduct vacation watches, traffic control, perimeter patrol of crime scenes, child fingerprinting, and so on. They contributed over 30,000 hours of service in 2010.