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Departments : A Closer Look

Scottsdale (Ariz.) PD's Community Relations Unit

Laughter is a powerful weapon.

October 01, 2001  |  by Marce Hanson


Members of S.M.I.L.E. (“Safety, Magic in Law Enforcement”) use magic, laughter and fun to raise kids’ awareness of safety and violence prevention.

The Scottsdale Police Department has a few clowns working for them and that's something of which they're quite proud. Sure, maybe some other departments have clowns working for them, but the Scottsdale clowns have a mission - one they take very seriously.

They belong to S.M.I.L.E., better known as "Safety, Magic In Law Enforcement," a police clown troupe created in 1997 by Scottsdale police officer Mark Ruffennach and civilian Crime Prevention Specialist Bruce Wall of the Glendale (Ariz.) Police Department. They partnered up as clown characters Officer Billy Club and Buck L.Upp to help raise kids' awareness about safety and violence prevention via magic, juggling, balloon sculptures and puppetry.

It didn't take long for the positive buzz to spread and S.M.I.L.E. now includes members in 15 U.S. states, Canada, the U.K. and Argentina. In addition to cops, members include fire fighters, EMS personnel, professional magicians, puppeteers, and civilian employees from police and fire departments.

Community involvement rates at the top of the Scottsdale PD's priorities and Police Chief Doug Bartosh believes in working closely with the community and creating partnerships that build efforts to prevent crime and reduce fear. One valuable way Chief Bartosh encourages residents to get involved is though the Citizen Police Academy. Modeled after similar programs developed in England and in the U.S., Scottsdale's Citizen Academy is one of the endeavors of which the Department is most proud, and their success is being studied by other cities in a quest to develop academies of their own.


A Scottsdale K-9 officer demonstrates the power of his fearless furry cohort. Luckily, a protective sleeve stands between the officer and a set of very sharp teeth. The bad guys aren’t so lucky.

Chief Bartosh says," The Citizen Police academy is the best opportunity we have created to educate community members about the profession of policing and for citizens to share their thoughts and expectations with us. This mutual understanding forms the basis for a strong, effective partnership."

The Scottsdale PD implements a traffic safety program aptly named Focus On Safety that combines comprehensive awareness and education for citizens, as well as utilizing traffic cameras in high collision areas to deter motorists from speeding and running red lights. Other community problems include concerns over gang activity and - during the past year - the Gang/Youth Unit has contacted approximately 1,000 gang members and associates. These contacts have helped them identify over 240 different gangs. Besides the usual crimes associated with gangs, the city of Scottsdale experiences around 120 cases of graffiti per month. Since 1994, the city has employed a full time painter to tend to the problem and also to photograph the graffiti and send it to the Gang & Youth Unit for documentation.


Scottsdale’s Citizen Police Academy educates community members about policing and gives citizens a way to voice their concerns and opinions about the department.

The City of Scottsdale continues to grow at a rapid pace and the police department has kept up with the continually changing demands being made by the needs of the community. Scottsdale's specialized units now include a K-9 Unit, Bike Unit, Mounted Patrol and an always ready SWAT Team. Scottsdale PD is also very pleased to have become the 317th law enforcement agency in North America to achieve accreditation through CALEA, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The Department rates a 97 percent citizen satisfaction rate and shows no signs of changing the way they do business, which is constantly seeking new and better ways to protect their city's citizens.


Mounted officers patrol major events easily, able to see over heads and move through crowds better than cops in cars or on motorcycles.

Scottsdale PD At A Glance

City service population: 199,943
Average rainfall: 7.30 inches
Average snowfall: .10
Average summer temperature: 105    
Average winter temperature: 40
Median family income: $52,603
Average Home Price: $235,700
Recruitment Info: Telephone: 480-312-2491
E-mail: Lisa Angelini at langelini@ci.scottsdale.az.us

  • For more information on S.M.I.L.E contact Mark Ruffennach at mruffennach@smileclowns.org or Bruce Wall at bwall@smileclowns.org or drop a line to P.O. Box 5912, Glendale, AZ 85312-5912.

Marce Hanson is a regular contributor to POLICE. If you'd like her to profile your agency, contact her via e-mail at info@policemag.com

Tags: Community Policing, Citizen Involvement, Scottsdale (Ariz.) PD, Special Assignments


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