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Laguna Beach Police Lt. Jim Cota to retire after 28 years with department

Lt. Jim Cota is retiring next month from the Laguna Beach Police Department.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

After nearly three decades with the Laguna Beach police department, Lt. Jim Cota is ready to hand in his badge.

Cota, 53, a Huntington Beach resident, has served the community for 28 years. Laguna Beach is the only department he has worked for since he joined its ranks in 1994, shortly after he attended the Golden West Police Academy.

“I love the Laguna Beach community and remain close to many of the citizens,” Cota said. “I will miss serving this city as a police officer every day, but I will frequently be returning as a community member to continue my friendships in town.

“Since day one, the Laguna Beach community has supported the department and me, and I will never forget that. We have amazing people in this community, and I am proud to have served them. I hope it was to their satisfaction.”

Coming from a military family, Cota called finding his way into law enforcement a “natural fit,” but such a career wasn’t the favorite in the clubhouse when he was coming out of high school.

Lt. Jim Cota is retiring next month from the Laguna Beach Police Department.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“After I graduated high school, I thought real estate would be my future until I went on a police ride-along with a friend from high school, which completely changed my perspective on my career,” Cota said.

Most recently the information officer for the department, Cota held a long list of roles over his time in uniform. He was a patrol officer, a bicycle officer, a narcotics detective, an administrative training officer, a corporal, a sergeant and then a lieutenant.

Cota said he had been thinking about retirement for several months prior to his public Twitter announcement last Sunday that the time had come. Family and recent events — the fatal helicopter crash that killed Huntington Beach Police Officer Nick Vella — played a big part in when he plans to hang up his uniform. His last day will be April 4.

“Losing my friend Nick Vella hit my family and me pretty hard and greatly impacted my final decision,” Cota said. “I have given over half my life to law enforcement, specifically the Laguna Beach community, for 28 years. I love Laguna Beach and have been a part of this community for a very long time. Serving Laguna Beach has been the main priority in my life for so long, but now it is time for making my family the top priority. I will miss the people of Laguna Beach, that’s for sure.”

The Laguna Beach Police Department, of which Vella was a part of before his time in Huntington Beach, attended a memorial service for Vella held at the Honda Center in Anaheim on March 8.

Lt. Jim Cota, right, of the Laguna Beach police, hugs a member of the Huntington Beach Helicopter Unit.
Lt. Jim Cota, right, of the Laguna Beach Police Department, hugs a member of the Huntington Beach Helicopter Unit, moments before a procession in honor of Nicholas Vella, a 14-year veteran of Huntington Beach police department who died in a helicopter crash. Vella was an officer in Laguna Beach before transferring to Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Lt. Cota has been a valued member of this organization for 28 years,” Laguna Beach Police Chief Jeff Calvert said in a prepared statement. “He had the opportunity to work a variety of assignments over his career, including patrol officer, downtown bike team, special investigations unit detective, corporal, sergeant, and will be retiring as a lieutenant shift commander.

“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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