SERGEANT JOSE A. COTA
SDPD 11/06/1890 - 04/07/1902
02/26/1850 - 04/30/1902
Jose Cota was born February 26, 1850, in La Paz Mexico and was just a year old when his family came to San Diego. As one of the original San Diego families, the Cota’s were well connected around town.
Jose Cota began his law enforcement career when he hired as a deputy city marshal under A.F. Knowles in 1874. It was there he would work alongside future chief James Russell. Cota quickly discovered the job was not all it was cracked up to be and after two years of working on bridges and collecting taxes, he left to become a city constable. By 1885 old friend and top lawman Joe Coyne was asking him to come back to work for the marshals office. Cota quickly accepted and worked as a deputy until the office folded in May 1889.
Now unemployed, Cota returned to work as a constable until he was rehired by the SDPD in 1890. His hiring made him the first Hispanic officer in the department’s history. Being bilingual and a former city lawman made Jose Cota a very good cop. At six feet tall and 200 pounds, he was a large presence as he walked a beat in downtown.
In 1895 Cota became the departments first Hispanic supervisor when he was promoted to sergeant.
By the turn of the century Cota was starting to change. He no longer had a spring in his step he didn’t look healthy. Several members of the council noticed the change and thought he had a drinking problem. Later, after being examined by doctors, it was discovered he was actually suffering a variety of diseases.
On April 7, 1902, the Police Commission dismissed Cota on an unpaid medical retirement. When his family requested a pension the commission said even though he had been a lawman in the city for 27 years, he had not been a SDPD officer long enough to qualify for one.
Jose Cota lived only a year in retirement before his death in Los Angeles on April 30, 1902. The cause of death was listed as a variety of ailments including softening of the brain.
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