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Featured Citizen – Kara Riley, Oro Valley Police Chief, February 2024

Meet Oro Valley Police Chief Kara Riley

In 2020, Chief Kara Riley took on the leadership of the Oro Valley Police Department. Here, we ask her a grab bag of questions about her experience and OV’s stellar police force.

Download Chief Riley’s bio.

1. What was the most exotic place that you lived growing up, and why?

The most exotic place I grew up in was in Sudan, Africa. My father was a professor at the University of Arizona in the field of environmental sciences. He taught developing countries how to grow food with their natural resources.

2. Did you notice anything about law enforcement in the different countries you lived in that is different than here in the US?

The criminal justice system in the countries where I lived is very different, and caused me to have a deep respect for the U.S. justice system. Most of the countries I grew up in are guided by Islamic law. I saw atrocities as a child that made me realize how important people’s civil rights are. Although we are not perfect, I submit to you that the U.S. criminal justice system is the best in the world.

3. What was the best thing about working at the airport?

I loved welcoming people to the beautiful communities of Tucson and Pima County. I felt as if I was an ambassador for my community and enjoyed working in this environment.

4. What was something you learned from working in corrections?

Communication is essential to law enforcement. When you are responsible for the daily routine of 72 male inmates, it is critical to be a good listener and communicator.

5. How did you end up pursuing a masters degree in Education?

I have never been a “teacher”; however, I have taught my entire career, whether it was a field training officer, training my management team, or teaching my daughter. I chose the degree because I felt it encompassed my passion of teaching others in my industry of law enforcement.

6. What is something the Chief of Police has to do regularly that might surprise many citizens?

I manage a large budget and must ensure daily we are being fiscally responsible. I also work patrol 10 hours a month and enjoy this part of my job immensely.

7. Anything you miss about former positions you’ve held at OVPD?

I miss working calls for services with our community members. I love helping people and this is what I miss the most.

8. What is something that Support Services does every day that people might not know about?

Criminal Investigations falls under this division. There are four sections on this unit, crimes against people, crimes against property, computer forensics and traffic. This unit works tirelessly in following up on all of our criminal cases. They have an excellent solvability rate, and I am so proud of all the work they do daily. Crime scene technicians are also part of this division. They are responsible for collecting evidence at crime scenes, which is a critical component of the criminal justice process and crime accountability for victims.

9. How much of a patrol officer’s time is spent in the field?

Patrol officers spend their entire shift in the field, which is ten hours. Our goal is for them to do 40% reactive (meaning responding to 911 calls for service) work, 40% pro-active work, and the remainder on paperwork. Paperwork is a lot of a police officer’s duties due to the high liability of our profession.

10. How do you report to the town? How often do you see the Mayor? Or the Town Council?

My position reports to the Council. I see the Mayor at least once a month. I see all Council members individually twice a year; however, sometimes incidents occur in the community and I need to communicate with all Council members to ensure they are briefed appropriately.

11. Has legalized marijuana had significant implications for the work of OVPD?

Not as much as we initially thought it would have. Initial concerns indicated there could be an adverse effect on violent crime, as well as property crimes. We have not realized a significant change in Part 1 & 2 crimes since the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2020.

12. What does it take to participate in CVAP? Are you taking on volunteers?

The Citizen Volunteer Assistants Program (CVAP) provides an opportunity for citizens 50 and over to serve their community by assisting the Oro Valley Police Department in emergency and non-emergency situations. We are always looking for new volunteers.

13. What program is OVPD focused on right now?

We are in the process of reinvigorating the Rape Aggression Defense program. This is a 12-hour program that teaches women self-defense. During the pandemic, we had to stop this course, so we are bringing it back in the next few months.

14. Is OV too harsh in terms of traffic regulation?

As traffic complaints are the number one concern I receive from the community, I would say “no.” However, I leave it to the police officer to use their discretion on whether someone receives a citation or not. Being highly visible allows for prevention of crime in our community, which is ultimately our goal.

15. What is the single greatest challenge for OVPD in the coming decade?

Recruitment and retention in the law enforcement profession. It is essential that we maintain a competitive pay and benefit package for heroes who are willing to enter this profession. Due to the scrutiny of our profession, we have seen a drastic decrease in interest, as well as a mass overhaul of our pension system. It has become less enticing due to the change in our pension plan; therefore, we must find different ways to engage those that want to enter into law enforcement.

16. What’s the best part about being a law enforcement officer?

Being the voice of the victim.