Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor - after spending 35 years in Tucson law enforcement - will work his last day December 31st.
As Villaseñor steps down after 35 years in Tucson law enforcement he reflects on his experiences and looks to the future.
When asked how it feels to be leaving, Villaseñor replies, “... somewhat unreal.”
But the issues Roberto Villaseñor has seen have been all too real. Prime examples: the January 8th shooting that left six dead and the University of Arizona Nursing School shooting that killed three.
Does he think the Tucson Police Department is prepared for his departure? He replies, “Absolutely.”
The biggest change he's seen for law enforcement during the last 35 years, Villaseñor unequivocally says is -- technology.
Growth in technology was flat for decades and then, over the last few years, the addition of new technology has risen sharply.
When Villaseñor first began his career, pop-out radios were just beginning to be used. During recent years, TPD has implemented the use of 70 body cams. “I think body-worn cameras are going to become the expected norm. People clamor for ... high profile incidents ... they expect that we're all supposed to do that now. That's the world we live in.”
Of course, most citizens are now armed with cameras that have caught officer's actions and inflamed public sentiment against police.
Other challenges that Villaseñor faced during his tenure included SB1070, a law he didn’t necessarily agree with. Villaseñor says there are several laws he didn’t personally agree with, but “that’s not my call.” Once the law is passed by voters and upheld by the Supreme Court, Villaseñor knew it was his job to see that the law was enforced in a professional manner, regardless of personal feelings.
When it comes to terrorism and threats against schools, Villaseñor prefers to err on the side of safety. Every threat is taken seriously and acted upon accordingly. Villaseñor prefers to inconvenience people, rather than risk the death of a child.
The day that sticks out as the worst in his 35 years? January 8th.
What is the scourge of Tucson? What is the one thing that causes the most crime in Tucson? Villaseñor says that is easy to pinpoint. “Our crime, about 80-85 percent of our crime relates back to narcotics in some way, shape or fashion.” The cartels and the drugs they bring into the country, the users who purchase the drugs, the victims, or suspects who are under the influence of drugs, all contribute to Tucson’s crime level, largely due to our proximity to the Mexican border, Villaseñor tells us.
That being said, crime here, as well as across the nation has gone down, according to Villaseñor. And with better incarceration policies, education, crime prevention methods, treatment and social service agencies, crime levels can continue to go down.
At the age of 57, Villaseñor will not stop working. He will stay in Tucson, but travel as a consultant for police departments, governments and businesses dealing with the modern issues of law enforcement.