Longtime Laguna Beach police spokesman announces retirement

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Lt. Jim Cota of the Laguna Beach Police Department enjoys a cup of coffee at Zinc Cafe. Photo courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

A longtime spokesperson of the Laguna Beach Police Department said he will retire from the force on April 1.

Lt. Jim Cota sent a Tweet on Sunday announcing his decision to retire from an agency he’s served after nearly 28 years. As the public information officer, Cota was effectively the voice of Laguna Beach police in some of the most intense moments in the City’s recent history.

“I am excited to start the next chapter in my life. Thank you all so much for the support and keep in touch. I am humbled and forever grateful,” Cota said in the Tweet.

Cota and his wife were close friends of Huntington Beach police officer Nick Vella and his wife, Kristi Tovar Vella. He was devastated to hear the former Laguna Beach police officer was killed when HB-1, the police helicopter he was riding in, crashed into Newport Harbor on Feb. 19. Vella was honored at a memorial attended by hundreds of law enforcement officers and other mourners at Honda Center on March 8.

Whether it was a high-speed pursuit, drug dealing arrest, heated political protest, or brush fire, Cota was usually the spokesperson telling members of the press the facts as police understood them. Long after many city employees have gone home for the day, Cota often responded to text messages from reporters seeking details about public safety incidents.

He also used social media to publicize lighter moments, like when officers delivered Taco Bell to a customer after the man delivering their meal was arrested on an outstanding warrant in March 2020.

Cota was not available for an interview with the Independent this week.

In addition to his service as public information officer, Cota previously served as a patrol officer, field training officer, corporal, narcotics detective, and investigations sergeant.

In 2018, Cota graduated from the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute (SLI). SLI is a leadership development program run by the State’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.

After a stint as a patrol sergeant, Cota was promoted to lieutenant in the Department’s field services division in 2020.

Last year, he earned a master’s degree in communication from USC.

“Lieutenant Cota has been a valued member of this organization for 28 years,” Police Chief Jeff Calvert said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “He has received over 70 letters of commendation over this career and has close ties and connections within our organization, and throughout our community. We appreciate his dedication and service to our community and we wish him the best in a much deserved retirement.”

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