New Police Chief Ramon Batista speaks during an introductory press conference on June 8, 2017, at the Mesa Police Department.
Mark Henle/The Republic

Department’s tighter budget will be 1 challenge for Ramon Batista, a former assistant police chief in Tucson

Mesa’s new top cop is delivering a message of sincerity, openness and understanding as he enters his new role as police chief.

Ramon Batista, most recently an assistant chief at the Tucson Police Department, was announced last month as the successor to Chief John Meza, who retired in December. Assistant Chief Mike Dvorak had served as interim chief

Batista said at an introductory news conference Thursday that he intends to continue to build on community-policing efforts instituted by his predecessors.

“We are going to continue to do the fine work that the men and women of Mesa have already been doing in engagement, transparency and relationship building that builds community,” Batista said.

“We are going to do our very best in every interaction we have with you. We’re human beings, and it’s tough, and it’s a dynamic environment, but that’s the vision. That’s the goal. … We’re going to always work (at) getting it right.”

Challenges before new chief

Batista’s new department faces budget constraints after the City Council voted on a tightened budget of $1.74 billion earlier this month. Public safety accounts for 62 percent of Mesa’s annual operating funds.

“It’s no secret that our public-safety departments are facing some challenges,” Mesa Vice Mayor David Luna said. “We all know that, but we also know that we have a top-notch police department that is recognized nationwide for the service they provide our residents.”

Luna said Batista is equipped to serve as the “captain of the ship” for Mesa police and ready to provide the city with innovative solutions.

“It takes someone with very special skill sets to be able to navigate the waters of a city our size, and we’re confident, Chief, that you can do that,” Luna said at Thursday’s event.

In his old role in Tucson, Batista was responsible for the patrol and investigative bureau and oversaw the city’s detectives, crime lab, evidence-processing and identification centers.

Tucson police released a statement after Batista took the Mesa job. 

“Chief Batista is a well-respected, caring, and engaged member of our executive leadership group within the Tucson Police Department. We will miss working with him, but we know he will be a valuable member of the public safety team in Mesa,” the statement said.

A focus on community relationships

In Mesa, Batista aims to implement a philosophy that emphasizes officer wellness, honesty, transparency and providing full, respectful service to the citizens whom officers protect.

He said his 31 years in the Tucson Police Department taught him that establishing strong relationships with the community is of the utmost importance.

Mesa police received increased scrutiny and criticism after three fatal police shootings in late 2015 and early 2016.

One former police officer was charged with second-degree murder in the January 2016 death of an unarmed Texas man and is now awaiting trial.

A department crisis-response team was created in February 2016. 

Last month, the department courted controversy for its association with “anti-jihad” training conducted by an Arizona police association. Dvorak said it would be the last time this specific training would be held at the agency’s training facility.

Batista said, “Building trust and legitimacy in the community is paramount to me. We will never be at a point where we think we don’t have to (work) to that anymore. It’s constant and ongoing, and we will always be working toward that end.”

Batista said he is excited about the opportunity to lead the department, which has nearly 1,200 sworn and civilian employees. 

“This is the type of family I want to be a part of, and I want to bring my family to be a part of it,” Batista said. “It is a sincere honor to be chosen to lead the fine men and women of the Mesa Police Department and serve the Mesa community.”


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