Five Alamos, Sonora, Mexico police professionals led by their chief of police, Benjamin Mejia, visited Scottsdale for a week, this February.
They were warmly greeted by Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell and many in his department as the Scottsdale Police Department arranged a week of training, opportunities for the exchange of ideas, visiting Scottsdale events, and ride-alongs.
They were housed by the Scottsdale Fire Department. None of the Alamos police spoke English. So, how did they communicate? Turns out, Scottsdale Police department is very diversified and has a significant number of Spanish speaking police personnel.
At the end of the visit, one Alamos policeman reported that the cultural exchanges and sharing of knowhow with their fellow law enforcement professionals in Arizona was the best part of the trip. Another felt the opportunity to experience the way in which the Scottsdale police interact with other professionals, such as the FBI and investigating agencies was a highlight.
In Mexico, the investigations units, state police, federal police and tourism police are separate and function independently. It was the level of trust that the Scottsdale police demonstrated with the Alamos police that most impressed one.
Quickly the police personnel of the two cities established mutual respect and camaraderie. They were able to share training. Without hesitation, the Alamos police were able to enter restricted areas as part of their joint activities.
Another comment was that through the ride-alongs they were able to see and experience how Scottsdale police engaged with the general public; this policeman noted that there are significant technology differences in the equipment of the two police departments, but their respect of the citizens and personal relation skills are similar and the most important.
But, maybe the most poignant observation was that the two police department personnel very quickly realized that they were all professionals. With most of the news, which reaches Mexico about American police, focus on police unprofessionalism.
Those visiting from Alamos were able to experience the typical police department and how truly professional the Scottsdale police are. Throughout the visit, Scottsdale police personnel could feel how each Alamos policeman was devoted to his city, loved Alamos and was very professional.
This police visit was due to Alamos and Scottsdale being sister cities. The purpose of having sister cities is to breakdown existing stereotypes and create people-to-people experiences that build better understandings in one country with another.
There are many ongoing exchanges with Alamos: student exchanges, fire department exchanges, government official visits, and cultural exchanges.
Clearly, this visit resulted in reducing misconceptions that exists; but, the Alamos police recognized that one visit was just a beginning. They invited any police personnel from Scottsdale, who wishes, to visit their city, continue to share cultures, and strengthen the bonds between professionals.
At the final farewell event, the Alamos police cooked a typical Alamos meal for the police and fire department personnel who had hosted them. Clearly, new professional friendships were established.
Max Rumbaugh is the past president of Scottsdale Sister Cities Association