Officer James Cooper has been protecting the people for 26 years. Cooper is a laid-back kind of guy, but mistaking his kindness for weakness would be a bad decision. He’s dealt with just about every type of criminal one can imagine and has no qualms when it comes to performing his duties.

Cooper is currently on assignment cruising the streets of downtown San Jose via Silicon Valley’s favorite green method of transportation: a bicycle. We talked to Cooper about crazy crowds, astronauts and his favorite places in San Jose. What brought you to San Jose?

Cooper: I came to San Jose in 1995.  I had worked for the town of Hillsborough prior and was looking to work for a bigger police department.

What do you love most about the San Jose?

I like the size of the city and the diverse group of people in the valley.  When looking at the City through the eyes of a police officer, I find each district or division has a different feel.  Each can have its own set of problems or types of crime and may even have different solutions, or ways to address the problems.

What are some of your hobbies?

I am into horses and I enjoy Scuba diving.  I worked in the department’’s mounted unit for 5 years and caught the bug.  Now I have horses in my back yard.  I have been diving since I was a kid in Key West Florida, and was a Rescue Diver for San Mateo Sheriff’s Department for 15 years.  Now, I like to take a diving vacation once or twice a year in warm water.

Where would you have your last meal on earth?

I apologize if this sounds corny, but I would have my last meal with family and friends.  I would have a big party/ BBQ with music, food, drinks and a jumpy house for the kids.

Where is a cool place to take an out-of-towner?

Any of the county’’s many parks.  Each one has something different to offer and they are all worth the small fee to enter.  They have boating, camping, hiking, biking and views of the whole valley.

What is your favorite hole-in-the-wall place to grub?

I love the food at Wonder Wok off Cropley and Capitol.  I have been stopping in there since one of my training officers took me there 19 years ago.  It’s a family owned business with good food at a nice price.

Name three things every local should do this year.

The Jazz Festival…, the Star Wars exhibit at the Tech (before it closes)… and go to the beach!

Name your favorite upcoming San Jose event.

I love to go to the Jazz Festival.  The music and food is the best.

How long have you been a police officer for?

I went to the Police academy in late 1987 and was sworn it at my first job in 1988.  So, I guess 26 years.

How did you become a police officer?

When I was a kid I was a Police Explorer in Arroyo Grande, California.  I went away to college and went into high tech.  I really missed being outside, so I made a career change.  I like to think that it was a good move.

What do you hope to accomplish in your career?

I’ve done a lot of fun things.  I have worked with a K9 as a patrol Evidence Tech, worked police horses, rode the police bikes downtown… and  I’ve been involved in catching some bad people and putting them in jail…. I have arrested (or identified through tech work) burglars, robbers, drug dealers, car thieves, sex offenders, vandals and parolees at large.  Most of this I have been able to do in patrol.  Patrol or what we call field operations is, in my opinion, where police work is experienced.  It’s an exciting job and I’ve have  had a very rewarding career. I guess that’’s why they make so many cop movies.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on the job?

Watching the crowds at Marti Gras or Cinco from horseback.  Some people think they can get away with some crazy behavior when they are in a crowd.

If you weren’t a police officer, what would you be?

I don’t know…, I hear astronaut is a pretty cool job.