Phoenix police spokesperson Tommy Thompson, who is retiring after 37 years of service, reminisces about his career at the Phoenix Police Department.

Arizona Republic

For 37 years, Sgt. Tommy Thompson has served in various roles within the Phoenix police department, including most recently as police spokesman. No matter what the role, the throughlines have been faith, pride and wanting positive forces to remain at work.

Thompson started as a patrol officer with the department in 1983. He was promoted to sergeant in 1989 and starting in 1992 spent 16 years with the department’s drug enforcement bureau, calling that his “favorite” assignment over the years in his Thursday interview with The Arizona Republic.

Thompson became a spokesperson for the department in 2008. It was a fitting assignment for the sergeant, who prior to joining the police department was an aspiring broadcast journalist preparing a demo reel to send to television stations around the country.

He served in as a spokesman officially until 2014, when he became a technical advisor to the Phoenix Fire Department — though he has continued to assist the public affairs department in the years since.

His nearly four decades with the department have been spent with “good people,” Thompson said.

“The vast majority of our people are wonderful, wonderful people — there’s nobody I don’t like on the department,” he said.

Throughout his interview with The Republic, that was Thompson’s plea for the public — to see police officers as people, not enemies. He remains proud of his work, and looks forward to the department’s future, while hoping for more community support.

‘A foundation of faith’

An undated photo of Sgt. Tommy Thompson. (Photo: Phoenix Police Department)

Thompson said he served more than 1,500 warrants over the years and said a prayer before each one, asking God to protect both him and his fellow officers, as well as those they would be coming into contact with.

He said his belief in God as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintshelped him through the ups and downs over the course of nearly four decades in law enforcement.

“As police officers, we see things that no man or woman was ever intended to see,” he said. “I think having a foundation of faith allows me to ground myself.”

He said most officers he knows also consider themselves people of faith, saying that belief in a higher power and life beyond the here-and-now helps them cope with what they experience on the job.

“If you don’t have that, you can get swept up in the whirlwind of the world instead of being able to say, ‘there really is more to this,'” he said.


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Response to criticisms

Thompson’s retirement comes in a year marked by, among other things, a slew of protests against law enforcement agencies in response to in-custody deaths and police shootings.

The death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer