Share story

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — An effort to rename a Tucson city park to honor a slain police officer is facing resistance from nearby residents.

Many neighbors near Alvernon Park say the late Tucson officer Jeffrey Ross has little historic connection to the midtown park, the Arizona Daily Star reports .

But retired Tucson police officer John Sainz says he and Ross used to play in the park as children. He is leading an effort to rename Alvernon Park to Jeffrey H. Ross Memorial Park.

Ross was part of a team of narcotics officers that raided the now-defunct Ranch House bar, a topless-dancer club and biker hangout when the bar manager shot him in the chest in 1982. He died a few hours later.

The push to rename a city park has been underway for about a year and has been led by Sainz. He said he began the effort to honor his childhood friend after he noticed that other communities honor fallen officers by renaming public spaces after them.

Sainz, who joined the force at the same time as Ross, remembers that after his friend’s death, the police department gave the family a medal.

“At the time, I didn’t think he was rightfully honored, as they are now,” Sainz said.

In consultation with the then-city’s interim director of the Tucson Parks and Recreation, Joan Stauch, the decision was made to settle on Alvernon Park, as Ross grew up in the Peter Howell Neighborhood where the park is located.

But that decision has split the quiet residential subdivision, which hasn’t changed much since Sainz and Ross were children.

Resident Kathy Phelan says renaming the park isn’t the right solution and current plans don’t tell those who come to the park much about Ross.

“It would mean nothing else to the neighborhood, it would do nothing to build our community,” she said.

Others who wrote letters in opposition to the renaming said there is little connection to the park other than Ross played there as a child, and that his family no longer lives in the neighborhood.

Another resident wrote she was opposed to the renaming, in part, because Sainz, who is seeking the change, doesn’t live in the neighborhood.

Letters of support in the renaming came from Ross’ family, the Fraternal Order of Police Tucson Lodge No. 1, Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier and the Tucson Police Command Association.

The Tucson City Council will take up the matter at its meeting on Tuesday.

___

Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.tucson.com