Cocopah police investigator named Officer of the Year

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COCOPAH, Ariz. – David Perez, a member of the Cocopah Indian Tribe Police Department has received the Officer of the year Award – the top recognition of a single law enforcement officer in Arizona Indian country.

“One Arizona tribal law enforcement officer is recognized each year for outstanding service, and this year Lead Investigator David Perez of the Cocopah Police Department was recognized as being the best of the best in law enforcement in Arizona Indian country,” said Liz Pratt, Cocopah spokeswoman.

The Intertribal Council of Arizona and the Arizona’s Indian Country Intelligence Network honored Perez with the award in late November at a ceremony at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

“This award means everything,” Perez said when he learned he had been named Officer of the Year.

“It also proves that when you don’t look at something as just a job, but something that you really, truly love doing, it has its rewards. Winning this award proves that theory,” Perez said.

What’s his favorite part of the job?

“Going to the Cocopah Head Start and seeing their smiles; it makes everything I do worth it.”

Perez has served the Cocopah Police Department for the last year and a half. His main duties are to conduct all on-going investigations and case follow-ups, as well as cold case investigations.

The title “lead investigator” is equivalent to detective, Pratt said.

“When the tribe created the police department, instead of creating a detective division, they called it an investigation division and David is the lead investigator. He’s a one-person department,” Pratt said.

The Indian Country Intelligence Network (ICIN) was created in 1994, and was the first Indian country law enforcement organization to establish a state-wide collaborative partnership serving all 21 Indian tribes in Arizona. Its mission is to improve communication, provide training, affect positive changes and strengthen relationships with neighboring jurisdictions, according to the organization’s Web site. ICIN is comprised of law enforcement executives from tribal law enforcement and correction agencies as well as representatives from BIA, FBI, United States Attorney’s Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety and state and municipal agencies in Arizona.

Individuals eligible to receive the Officer of the Year Award must be sworn law enforcement officers or civilian employees working within Indian country who performed “an act of valor, courage or exceptional service during the calendar year,” according to the Web site. The award is open to tribal law enforcement agencies or county and state agencies serving Indian country, the FBI and the BIA.

There are ICIN associations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington and New Mexico.