Daughter follows her officer-dad’s footsteps SanTan Sun News

Daughter follows her officer-dad’s footsteps

June 23rd, 2020 STSN Staff
Daughter follows her officer-dad’s footsteps
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Cmdr. Edward Upshaw of the Chandler Police Department had a clear rule when it came to his children’s career aspirations.

“You could not be police officers,” he’d often say to them.

But the advice didn’t seem to have much effect on Upshaw’s daughter, Nicole, who joined the Chandler force in 2016.

The news worried Upshaw at first. The recent retiree has spent 33 years in law enforcement and seen his fair share of dangers and tragedies. It’s a lifestyle he wasn’t quite prepared to share with his daughter.

“Unfortunately, in this job, you lose friends,” Upshaw said.

His concerns gradually dissipated once he realized how well his daughter thrived within the agency.

“She’s proven to be a good police officer,” he said.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Nicole was to rise through the ranks and become a top commander like himself, Upshaw said.

His own journey with the agency began in 1986, when Chandler’s population was significantly smaller and fewer than 100 cops were working for the city.

Yet, there was still plenty of crime to investigate on nearly every street corner.

The crossings of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard had a separate street gang represented on each corner of the intersection, Upshaw recalled, and some of these groups had been maintaining a local presence for decades.

“We had over 21 documented gangs in the city of Chandler,” he said.

Years of community policing and partnerships with local nonprofits helped to root out some of this gang activity, Upshaw said.

Upshaw has had ongoing working relationships with organizations like ICAN, which has been providing free after-school programs in Chandler since the 1990s.

These partnerships have helped to break a cycle that’s allowed criminal behavior to be passed down from generation to generation, he said, and have improved relations between cops and Chandler’s neighborhoods.

Throughout his decades-long career, Upshaw has rotated among various assignments, gradually moving up the ranks to sergeant, lieutenant and eventually commander.

“I’ve worked everywhere in the police department except for professional standards,” he said, referencing the unit responsible for conducting internal investigations.

Narcotics turned out to be his favorite assignment.

There was always so much activity in that unit, Upshaw recalled, and a team never quite knew what they might find walking into a suspect’s home.

He remembered once walking into a fancy, luxurious home and finding bundles of cash stowed away in nearly every crevice of the residence.

“This guy had money tucked everywhere – hidden in his basement, secret walls,” Upshaw said.

The work may have been fulfilling, but Upshaw said he deliberately tried not to blend too much of his professional life with his personal one.

His children were rarely told stories from the streets, he said, because it didn’t seem wise to bring his work home with him.   

That strategy didn’t appear to dissuade their interest: both of his children went on to study criminal justice at college, he said.

Upshaw’s retirement comes at a time when images of police brutality are circulating in the news and the nation once again confronts issues of modern policing.

The death of George Floyd in Minnesota took place the same week Upshaw officially retired from law enforcement.

Upshaw said he was horrified watching the video of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck and equally disturbed by the surrounding officers who did nothing to stop it.

“This was the worst thing I’d ever seen,” he said, “I just think people are tired of seeing innocent people getting killed.”

Chandler Police Department has always had a reputation for progressiveness, Upshaw said, and has tried to stay ahead of the curve on new protocols and practices.

When the White House released a guidebook on “21st Century Policing” in 2014, Upshaw said Chandler Police immediately went through it and began implementing recommendations that hadn’t already been in place.

Upshaw presided over the agency’s introduction of body-worn cameras on officers and helped come up with the rules of how the technology would be incorporated into the agency’s operations.

The cameras have been tremendously helpful at conflict resolution, Upshaw said – complaints filed against officers quickly get rescinded once the filer finds out the officer had a camera recording their interaction.

Upshaw expects his retirement years are expected to still have an element of public service, as he intends to devote much of his time to teaching people with physical disabilities how to scuba dive.

Swimming has been a hobby of Upshaw’s for years and he’s already offered scuba instruction to individuals with traumatic-brain injuries, visual impairments and missing limbs.

Watching these people move through the water without any constraints or hindrances is one of the best sights one can see, Upshaw said.

He also intends to remain connected with the Chandler I AM Project, a nonprofit he got involved with a few years ago to address Arizona’s opioid crisis.

The organization assists residents addicted to prescription painkillers by offering financial help to pay for drug rehabilitation and counseling.

The nonprofit has managed to provide 15 scholarships since 2017, Upshaw said, and 12 recipients successfully completed treatment.

Despite the recent backlash spewed at police departments across the country, Upshaw would encourage any young person to consider a future career in law enforcement.

He may have had reservations about his daughter donning the badge, but Upshaw still believes it’s one of the most rewarding and impactful jobs out there.

“If you get into it for the right reasons,” he said, “it is a very noble profession.”

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