KNAU and Arizona News
4:49 pm
Mon October 10, 2011

Flagstaff mourns loss of police chief Brent Cooper

Flagstaff, AZ – Flagstaff's law enforcement community is mourning the loss of its police chief. Fifty-seven year old Brent Cooper died Sunday while on his morning jog.

Cooper was a 33-year veteran of the Flagstaff Police Department and had served as its chief since 2006.

Community members describe Cooper, whom friends called "Coop," as a man of compassion and action.

Joe Ray, a Sunnyside neighborhood business owner and community leader, says Cooper's approach to community policing reduced crime and attracted businesses to the area.

Ray says Cooper worked hard to build the police substation on 4th Street. He also established a program that got officers out of their cars and onto bikes in Sunnyside, which Ray says, really improved relations.

"It really helped the atmosphere because all of the people here were accustomed to seeing these officers, talking to these officers," Ray said. "Our children in this area, after many decades of untrust for uniformed policemen, Mr. Cooper was very instrumental in working with us. "Now all of our kids when they have an activity, a dance or a party, they want the officers there because now they know what the police department stands for, which is to help."

Flagstaff Police launched a search for Cooper after he did not return home during a Sunday jog in his University Heights neighborhood. A passerby reportedly found the Chief lying on the ground unresponsive and called police.

Before becoming chief, Cooper worked for Flagstaff Police as a patrol officer, detective and on the tactical team.

One of Cooper's main duties in recent years was balancing state budget cuts and enforcing SB 1070, Arizona's new immigration law.

In a 2010 interview with KNAU after the law's passage, Cooper said he had met with Flagstaff's Latino community, so that everyone understood the law.

"We took an oath to uphold all the state laws and we fully intend upon doing that in good faith, but at the same time ensuring that nobody's civil rights are violated," Cooper said.

In addition to his policing duties, Cooper freely offered his advice and time to help local charities, including homeless shelters.

Steph Boardman, executive director of Sunshine Rescue Mission and New Hope Cottage, says Cooper showed compassion for the homeless.

"He's a man whose thumbprint is on so many events and agencies in this town," Boardman said. "That kind of man, with the kind of grace and compassion he had -- and integrity -- is going to be a hard man to replace. "So not only is our heart broken for the loss of a grandfather and father and husband, but an amazing chief of police."

Flowers have been placed in front of the Flagstaff Police Department in memory of Chief Cooper.

Flagstaff Police Sgt. James Jackson says Cooper was from the Phoenix area. He served his entire career in the Flagstaff Police Department.

Jackson says he and his fellow officers will remember Cooper for his sense of humor and compassion.

"He was quite the prankster," Jackson said. "You ask anybody about Brent Cooper, they'll tell you, he loved life, loved the police department and loved police work, and devoted his life to it. "Even as the rank of chief, he wasn't standoffish," Jackson continued. "He was down having lunch with the troops in the break room every day, making jokes and having a good time and laughing. There's no one word that will ever describe him. There's not enough words to describe Brent Cooper."

The Department has not yet named an interim chief. Funeral services for Cooper are pending.