New GRPD Patrol Unit Pays Tribute to Native Veterans
Gila River Indian News
The Gila River Police Department (GRPD) debuted a new patrol car dedicated to honoring and acknowledging veterans of the United States military branches. The new patrol unit, which took to the road last month, is the only police unit dedicated to military veterans out of all 22 Native American tribes in Arizona.
The veterans patrol car’s paint features desert “camo,” reflecting the Community’s vast desert landscape. A silhouette graphic of the Iwo Jima Flag Raising adorns the rear windows, to memorialize Community member’s Ira Hayes’ connection to the event.
The patrol car is currently being driven by Sgt. Robert Sims Jr., a United States Marine Corps veteran who has been with GRPD since 2006. Sims served as the Grand Marshal for the City of Phoenix’s Annual Veteran’s Day Parade in 2019.
Sgt. Sims says he feels honored to drive the specially decorated patrol unit, which he calls a symbol of the service and many sacrifices made by Native American veterans. Native and non-Native veterans alike frequently ask to photograph the car because of how special it is, says Sims.
One specific assignment from earlier this year stands out for Sims as especially meaningful. When a fellow GRPD sergeant’s father, a Marine Corps veteran, passed away, the family asked Sims to lead the funeral procession in the specially marked patrol vehicle. Following a police escort, Sims led the family safely from Chandler all the way to District 1.
GPRD Police Chief Timothy Chavez shared that 40 veterans presently work for the department, serving as supervisors, officers, detectives, rangers and civilian employees. Chavez called the vehicle a tribute to all veterans. “This beautiful patrol vehicle will serve to honor the United States veterans at GRPD,” he said, “while also honoring our Community members who are United States veterans.”
GRPD Assistant Chief William Morago played an integral role in acquiring the patrol car and selecting its driver. He says he’s thrilled with the look of the vehicle and the choice of Sgt. Sims to drive it. Morago also believes the patrol car will serve as a recruitment tool, showcasing the many opportunities GRPD has available for veterans. “We ... support our veterans,” said the Assistant Chief. “We love and respect them, and we welcome them here.”