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cop-of-the-year-10-12-(1).jpgBig, brown eyes look up longingly to their owner. Sgt. Will Lopez, of the Sedona Police Department, reaches down and runs his hands on top of his German shepherd’s head.

By Alison Ecklund
Larson Newspapers

Big, brown eyes look up longingly to their owner.

Sgt. Will Lopez, of the Sedona Police Department, reaches down and runs his hands on top of his German shepherd’s head.

“Patience,” the touch tells the dog’s head, “we’re being honored tonight. You have to be good.”

This dynamic duo has worked hard to serve the community together and now their hard work has been rewarded.

cop-of-the-yearlarge.jpgOn Tuesday, Oct. 9, Lopez was honored as Police Officer of the Year by the Central Arizona Masonic Lodge No. 14. Brook Cunningham, senior grand deacon for the grand lodge of Arizona, who presented Lopez with the reward at a Sedona City Council meeting was enthusiastic about all Lopez has done.

“Sgt. Lopez truly is a public servant for Sedona,” Cunningham said. “He’s the type of individual the community can look up to.”

The Masonic Lodge receives nominees for Police Officer of the Year from other officers and supervisors within the department. The selection process is tough, Cunningham said. “We’d love to give to everyone of them.”

The lodge has been honoring local police officers and firefighters since Sept. 11, 2001.

“When you get in trouble, who do you call?” Cunningham asked, not waiting for a reply, “You always call them first. We would like to honor unsung heroes of our community. We feel strongly about honoring these individuals.”

Although the competition may have been tough, it’s clear why Lopez was selected. Lopez started the K-9 unit for the SPD.

After getting out of the Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking workforce, where he worked in undercover narcotics from 1998 to 2001, Lopez went through training with his dog, Joker, which included narcotics training, apprehension, article searches and obedience.

Once the program was in full-swing at SPD, Lopez offered it to all agencies in the Verde Valley.

It was this generosity with his time and commitment to the

K-9 unit that not only caught the attention of others in his department, but also of the Masonic Lodge members that voted for him.

{xtypo_quote_left} “He developed all the training and procedures to make the K-9 program a success,” Cunningham said.{/xtypo_quote_left}

Another reason Lopez was selected was for his efforts to go above and beyond the call of duty. Lopez and Joker are known for responding to calls after hours, wherever they are needed, such as searches for drugs, missing people and suspects.

Cunningham pointed out that Lopez and Joker do this on their own.

“He’s done this when other people might not,” Cunningham said.

Lopez  received one of his nominations from Police Chief Joe Vernier.

“I nominated Will [Lopez] because he cared a lot about the community and public safety,” Vernier said. “In my view, he’s a born leader. The officers look up to him and respect him. And he works diligently and patiently with every employee to help them achieve their best in any career dreams they may have.

“Did he mention he was Latino Police Officer of the Year?” Venier asked.

No, no he didn’t — this humbleness may be another reason Lopez’ colleagues and supervisor nominated him.

It turns out, this isn’t the first time Lopez has been awarded for his efforts toward the community. A few years ago, Lopez was selected by the National Latino Peace Officers Association as Officer of the Year.

“It’s a great honor to receive this award,” Lopez said of his most-recent honor. “I was absolutely surprised.”

Lopez realized he wanted to become a police officer in high school when he became involved in the Police Explorer program, which introduces youth to law enforcement.

“I saw a lot of things and thought it was interesting,” Lopez said.

Once an officer for the SPD, Lopez got involved in the community by helping Sgt. Lucas Wilcoxson start the Police Explorer program in the Sedona area with the goal to get youths interested in a career in law enforcement.

Lopez’ involvement in starting up the Police Explorer program in Sedona was just one more reason Cunningham listed as to why the Masonic Lodge selected him.

Before entering the council meeting to accept his award, Lopez, with Joker by his side, thanked Vernier for nominating him.

“Well,” Vernier said, “you earned it.”


Alison Ecklund can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 125, or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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