Sat, Oct. 19

Going full circle: Old pro is ‘Rookie of the Year’ for Cottonwood PD

Cottonwood Police officer Mark Mann, 59, was named New Employee of the Year at the Cottonwood Police Department. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Cottonwood Police officer Mark Mann, 59, was named New Employee of the Year at the Cottonwood Police Department. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

From a road trooper with the New York State Police to police chief in Buckeye and now to patrolling the streets in Cottonwood. That’s the short version of Mark Mann’s story.

In the latest chapter of a policeman’s life that has gone full circle, the 59-year-old veteran lawman was named Cottonwood PD’s “New Employee of the Year” last month.

Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell greeted Mann with a high-five handshake as he walked up to the podium to accept the award.

Fellow police officers and family members applauded and cheered as Mann joined other officers and staff at the front of the room.

Mann looked at the audience and told them they already knew his story. The officer proceeded to thank “My savior, Jesus Christ.”

Mann said the hugs and positive response from other officers at the awards ceremony meant a lot to him. Even the jokes about his age made him smile.

Asked about his story for those who didn’t know it, Mann said it was a case of having to prove to himself and others that he could still make it as a patrol officer after so many years behind a desk.

“I’m coming to this department as a former police chief,” Mann explained. “I came in here with less than an amiable departure from the Buckeye Police Department.”

“I was given a second opportunity (in Cottonwood),” Mann said. “So that’s what the story was. ‘Let’s give the guy a chance and see what he’s like and if he can cut the mustard.

“Some people may think, ‘What’s this guy got left? He’s got no gas in the tank.’” Mann said. “I came in, kept my head down, worked very hard and proved myself all over again.”

To Mann, the effort has yielded the desired results.

“It’s like family here again. I really remembered why I signed up,” Mann explained. “There’s some passionate hard-working police officers in Cottonwood.”

Mann said he was ready to get out of police work after becoming disenchanted with the politics of being a chief.

“Chief Gesell gave me the opportunity,” said Mann.

Mann admits feeling the aches and pains of being a 59-year-old patrolman. “It’s definitely a challenge,” he said.

He runs and lifts weights and must pass a physical exam like all other officers. That involves running, climbing walls and fences, a dummy drag and an obstacle course.

In addition, 10 years of management also left the officer behind in the latest in patrol technology and shooting and driving training.

Mann has also been on the receiving end of patrol house pranks by other officers, including a time when some Depends were left on his locker.

Mann admits it’s humbling to train with police officers half his age. He looks back to the New York State Police Academy when he graduated No. 1 out of 185 cadets.

Mann came to Arizona in 2003 and worked for the Department of Corrections and later as a detective for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

He then went to the Buckeye Police Department in 2007 as a lieutenant, became interim chief within a year, and chief from 2008 to 2014.

Mann was never comfortable as police chief. “I never signed up for that. I was pretty much chosen for it. And I thought I did a really good job.”

Mann ultimately resigned from the Buckeye department over a “difference in management philosophy.”

The second chance with Cottonwood PD reinforced the feelings of why he became a police officer in the first place.

“This has been rewarding,” Mann said. “It’s all about serving. Being back to helping people in Cottonwood as opposed to trying to please the politicians. It’s very humbling. I embrace it. I remember why I signed up for this in 1981.”

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