The way of policing in the last couple of years has been an eye opener as well as an adjustment for all police and first responders. The pandemic threw everyone for a loop, followed by devastating wildfires and now floods. It’s not something that is taught in any academy, it’s just added duties of public safety.
Commander A.J. Castaneda was born and raised in Miami, Arizona. His family has deep roots in the local community that include his late father (Abie) who served 32 years in law enforcement, including as Miami Police Chief, his mother Rosemary, who is a former Miami Town Mayor, and his sister Christine Duarte, who served in law enforcement and is now Community Services and Development Director for the Town of Miami.
Castaneda graduated from Miami High School in 1981 and is also a member of the Miami Sports Hall of Fame. He attended Northern Arizona University where he studied criminal justice while playing football for the Lumberjacks.
Commander Castaneda sat down with the Arizona Silver Belt to talk about his retirement and his time in law enforcement. When asked why he became an officer, he said:
“I wish I had a notable reason for entering law enforcement, some noteworthy explanation, but that’s not the case. My dad was an officer for the Miami Police Department for over 30 years and he was the chief for most of that time. He encouraged and influenced me into the field but that’s not the only reason. I had been working for the Arizona Department of Corrections for eight years. It was not so much the job, but the people that I worked with that I enjoyed. My own freedom began to feel deprived working in a prison environment. Over time I felt stagnant, almost like I was incarcerated and needed a change. I was offered an opportunity to attend a local police academy through Gila Pueblo College and after completion was hired by the Globe Police Department in December of 1995. I took a full-time position in August of 1996.”
During his 25-year career, he has held many ranks, titles and positions as he progressed through the ranks to his current position of Commander, to which he was promoted to in 2018. Commander Castaneda has always been dedicated to serving and protecting the citizens of this community.
Castaneda described his fellow officers as problem solvers. Many of the officers are called out to solve problems in the community daily and are exposed to abuse, confrontation, negativity, and situations they had no role in starting. Their role is to protect, serve, keep the peace, and enforce laws if necessary and yet it’s their benevolent attitudes, brotherly love and standards of humanity, care, and dignity that define the officers that Castaneda knows. He’s seen many officers help people in their communities, even with their own wallets; these are the stories that get over looked all the time. They don’t do any good deed for the publicity, it’s for humanity.
He prides himself in having developed many personal and professional relationships with countless numbers of people within this community. These relationships and trust have been an invaluable asset throughout the course of his career.
In a law enforcement career, many times the needs of public safety interrupt personal time off, especially in a small community. The families sacrifice much of their time for the job of the officer.
Castaneda’s number one priority is his family in his retirement. He wants to be more involved with his grandson Niko, and spend more time with his wife and children. The first couple of months he will be doing nothing, no work, no commitments, but trusts that God will put him where he needs to be.
Chief Dale Walters said of the loss of Commander Castaneda: “Someone who is as in tune with the community is hard to replace and he is absolutely going to be missed.”