PALM SPRINGS —Police Departments across the country are coming under heightened scrutiny in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers. The Palm Springs Police Department is no different.

The City Council has approved spending $150,000 for a third-party review of the Department’s policies and practices.  Mayor Geoff Kors and Councilmember Grace Garner volunteered to be the liaisons to hire a consultant. They are expected to start that process within the next two weeks, Kors told Uken Report.

Kors said he has had many discussions with Police Chief Bryan Reyes about policing, including since the death of George Floyd. 

“(Reyes) has been a leader in police reform, and we discussed how to best review our existing policies and spending to determine what changes should be considered,” Kors told Uken Report. “This is a complex and multifaceted issue.”

The city experienced a $75 million decrease in revenue due to the COVID pandemic.  In response, the City Council reduced the budgets of every department in the city.  That included a reduction of more than $3 million for the Palm Springs Police Department, including a reduction of 19 staff positions, ten of which were police officers.  Two City Council members wanted further reductions in the Police Department but did not have a specific proposal, Kors said.

Also, residents — particularly residents of color and those in lower-income neighborhoods — expressed concerns about their interactions with the police, Kors said.

Palm Springs Police Department Subject of Review

Mayor Geoff Kors

“The police department is more involved with our community than any place I have ever lived and the relationship with most people in the community is strong.,” Kors said. “Unfortunately, that is not true for all residents and neighborhoods.”

Councilmember Lisa Middleton and Kors, serving as budget liaisons, spoke with Chief Reyes about bringing in a consultant to work with the Police Chief, City Council, and the community, Kors said.

“The (thought process) was that hiring an expert in police practices and policies would be the best way to look at our spending, current police (policies) and procedures, and provide a way to bring people together, talk about the issues, with a goal of moving forward as a stronger community,” Kors said.

Asked what he thinks of the City Council’s call for a review, Reyes told Uken Report that the City Council has the choice to spend money to review any aspect of city-provided services.

“This one clearly has a focus on the Police Department,” Reyes said. “I think this provides us with an opportunity, an opportunity to assess what we have in place and see what can possibly be done to become more efficient without compromising our staff’s ability to be safe in their efforts to keep the community safe.”

It is important from time to time to have policies, procedures, and practices assessed, which is common practice in the law enforcement profession, Ryes said.

Palm Springs Police Department Subject of Review

Police Chief Bryan Reyes

“This process will likely include a deeper dive and to be absolutely honest, I welcome it,” Reyes said.  “I welcome this review because it gives all those involved in the process as well as our community, an opportunity to LEARN.  Throughout our country there is a demand for change, and change WILL come.  However, it is equally important for all those calling for change to learn what it takes for police departments to function every day to include all the checks and balances that are in place and have been in place for many years.  California as a whole, has been very progressive in passing laws associated with law enforcement to bring the entire State of California in alignment as it relates to our profession.  I absolutely agree that more change must and will occur but that process must include learning from all sides of this effort. ”

As for what the City Council might be looking for, Reyes said that has yet to be determined. as the scope of this analysis has not yet been determined.

“On the surface, I believe our Council would like a strong analysis on what our officers respond to and determine if some of those efforts can be better served by others responding to those calls for service,” Reyes said. “For example,  homelessness, mental health crisis, (and) drug addiction crisis.”

During the June 30 meeting at which councilors discussed a third-party review of the Palm Springs Police Department, Middleton said one of the areas that is an emotional issue throughout the country, and deservedly so, is the type of policing that will take place in the community.

Palm Springs Police Department Subject of Review

Lisa Middleton

“And as we look at what type of policing takas place throughout the country, I believe that we have the ability and responsibility in Palm Springs to do this right,” Middleton said. “We have the kind of community, we have the kind of leadership from Chief Bryan Reyes that makes it possible for us to do a full, complete, community-involved, police-involved review of what we’ve asked (police) to do, what resources we’ve given them to do it with, and how we should proceed in the future.”

Middleton, who is up for re-election in November, said such a review could not take place in a few hours, or even a few days.

“It is going to take some time and I want to see us do it right,” Middleton said. “A review is something needed and appropriate and a conversation I look forward to being a part of.”

Middleton and Mayor Pro Tem Christy Holstege, who is also up for re-election in November, are appointees to public safety.

Palm Springs Police Department Subject of Review

Mayor Pro Tem Christy Holstege

“There’s a lot in our city that we require the police to solve because we aren’t a social service agency and we don’t have enough mental health workers or homeless advocates … the County provides those services but doesn’t usually provide enough in the city of Palm Springs or the Coachella Valley,” Holstege said. “… so how can we solve these problems for the city and the systemic issue instead of just throwing police at them because that’s not in the police officer’s job (description) either.”

Joe Cook, president of the Palm Springs Police Officers Association, did not return requests for comment.

Nomination documents have been issued to Richard Noble, an activist, for a possible challenge to Middleton in District 5. Holstege currently has one opponent, Mike McCulloch, in District 4.

 

 

Image Sources

  • Mayor Geoff Kors: Geoff Kors
  • Bryan Reyes: Palm Springs Police Department
  • 450x550_lisa-middleton: Lisa Middleton
  • Christy Holstege: Christy Holstege
  • Palm Springs Police Department: Facebook