Santa Cruz police chief hired as new chief in Palm Springs
Andrew Mills, the chief of police of Santa Cruz, a city of 63,000 residents on the central California coast, will be the next leader of the Palm Springs Police Department, it was announced Tuesday.
Mills has led the Santa Cruz Police Department since 2017. Prior to Santa Cruz, he served four years as chief of police in Eureka. He began his career in 1983 as a patrol officer with the San Diego Police Department and worked his way up to commanding officer of gang investigations and criminal intelligence/counter-terrorism, rising to the rank of police captain and commanding officer in 2011, overseeing the San Diego Police Department’s Western and Eastern divisions.
Mills, 64, said Palm Springs’ proximity to San Diego played a prominent role in his decision to pursue the opening here. He and his wife Cathy have been married for 40 years. They have three daughters — Steffanie Montes, Andrea Stewart and Rachel Mills — and four grandchildren in the San Diego area.
“I spent most of my career in San Diego,” he said by phone. “To be able to work in another world-class city with a phenomenal police department, but yet be close enough to pop down to watch a play my grandkids are in or go to one of their ballgames on a Saturday morning is truly a dream come true.”
Mills will begin his new position in Palm Springs in early November. He will replace Acting Police Chief Melissa Desmarais, who chose not to seek the position. She replaced Bryan Reyes, who retired in August after 27 years of service to the city.
“The nice thing is that it’s an incredible team already. I don’t need to go in and make massive amounts of changes”
— Incoming Palm Springs Police Chief Andrew Mills
“My first order of business is to get in and get to know the staff at the Palm Springs Police Department — both the civilian staff and the uniformed officers,’ Mills said. “It’s important to get to understand what’s important to them and how I can lead effectively.
“The nice thing is that it’s an incredible team already. I don’t need to go in and make massive amounts of changes. I just need to go in and make sure they are taken care of, and they are supported and that we lead with a mission that is something they agree with and understand.”
Mills will have a starting salary of $243,756 in Palm Springs, a city spokesperson said. While in Santa Cruz, Mills’ annual salary was $223,827 before taxes, said Santa Cruz city spokeswoman Elizabeth Smith.
During his tenure in Santa Cruz, Mills dealt with calls for police reform in 2020, resulting in changes to hiring and transparency practices within the Santa Cruz Police Department. He also is no stranger to the homelessness crisis. Similar to issues faced by police in Palm Springs, Santa Cruz officers are often asked by residents to remove homeless encampments, but they lack legal authority.
The selection process in Palm Springs started with a review of resumes, a screening of more than 50 applicants, and two surveys that queried residents and Police Department employees about attributes they were looking for in the next chief of police. The process concluded with four separate panels conducted by city staff and an outside company. Those panels were comprised of several chiefs of police, sworn and unsworn members of the Palm Springs Police Department, an executive department head panel, and a panel consisting of members of the community selected by a City Councilmember in each of the city’s five districts.
“I am very excited to see Chief Mills join our team,” City Manager Justin Clifton said in a written statement at the time of the announcement. “We have had an extensive process where the candidates were tested on their values, knowledge, skills, and abilities with a broad cross-section of stakeholders serving as evaluators.
“Chief Mills was clearly the top performer in the process. I think he will be able to integrate with our team and community seamlessly. He brings a wealth of experience and leadership that, with help from the rest of our team, can take us to the next level.”
Mills is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, the FBI National Academy, and California P.O.S.T Management School. He is a member of the Major Cities Chiefs Intelligence Commanders Group and was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to serve on the Board of State and Community Corrections.
In addition, Mills serves as executive chair of the California Violence Prevention Grant Program and on the board of the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing.
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IN-PERSON PRIDE PARADE: The Greater Palm Springs Pride Parade will return in person this November, organizers confirmed this week. The parade will be held on Sunday, November 7, starting at 10 AM on North Palm Canyon Drive at the intersection of East Tachevah Drive, and will travel south, ending at the entrance to the Pride Festival at Amado Road, according to event organizers. The parade usually lasts two hours and is a free event. For the complete story, go here.
GAS LEAK: A natural gas line was ruptured in Palm Springs Tuesday, possibly by a construction crew, but the gas flow was quickly cut off, and no major disruptions were reported. The break was reported around noon in the 100 block of Museum Drive, with the Palm Springs Fire Department urging residents to avoid the area. Fire Capt. Nathan Gunkel said Southern California Gas Co. workers were able to cut off gas flow within about 10 minutes. No injuries were reported. Gunkel said construction work in the area was believed to be the cause of the leak.
DIPLOMAS FOR VETERANS: Veterans of foreign wars who didn’t graduate from high school but want their graduation certificates have until Friday to apply for them under a Riverside County program that awards diplomas to former airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines who gave up school to serve their country. The county Office of Education is conducting its 15th “Operation Recognition” program for the benefit of veterans of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars. The program provides an opportunity for qualifying vets to receive certificates even though they never finished school. The deadline for all applications is Friday, October 15. Like last year, there is no formal presentation ceremony planned because of COVID precautions. However, certificates will be delivered to those who qualify. Forms can be downloaded at www.rcoe.us/operationrecognition, requested via telephone through Deborah Sofia at 951-826-6376, or by emailing [email protected].
TODAY’S COMMUNITY CALENDAR
SUNSHINE SISTERS: The Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters host a morning coffee at Koffi, 650 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, starting at 8 AM. You can sign up to be part of the group formed to help women make new connections and friendships on Meetup here.
MIZELL EVENTS: Programs at the Mizell Center today include Dick Brodie’s Jam Session, stress management, the do’s and don’ts of healthy dieting, and more. The center is located at 480 S. Sunrise Way, and events begin at 8 AM. For a complete list of today’s offerings, click here.
HORA DE CUENTOS: La bibliotecaria Nancy Valdivia lee cuentos, canta canciones y enseña conceptos de aprendizaje temprano (miércoles en español y jueves en inglés) para estudiantes de preescolar de 10:30 a.m. a 11:30 a.m. Puedes ver los videos en YouTube aquí.
MOBILE HEALTH: A mobile health clinic will be parked at the James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center, 480 W. Tramview Rd., from 9 AM until 4 PM. Operated and staffed by Borrego Health, the mobile unit will provide a variety of medical services for residents, such as family medicine, women’s health, and pregnancy tests, immunizations and physicals for school, HIV/STI testing, COVID-19 testing, labs, and more.
MEMOIR WRITING: the Palm Springs Public Library hosts an online class on the basics of memoir writing. Complete information about the class, including how to attend, is available here.
PLANNING COMMISSION: The city’s Planning Commission meets at 5:30 PM via Zoom. Instructions for participating in the meeting, as well as a complete agenda, are available here.
ONGOING & UPCOMING
FILM FESTIVAL: The 8th Annual Reel Women’s Film Festival runs through October 23, benefiting Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. While traditionally held at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, this year, the event is entirely virtual. Instructions will be sent after registration, which can be done here. The Post is proud to help sponsor this event.
MODERNISM: The Modernism Week Fall Preview takes place Thursday through Sunday. The event offers visitors and locals a taste of modernism through talks and seminars, in-person home tours, and parties in unique locations not regularly open to the public. Tickets for dozens of events can be found here. In addition to the Fall Preview, you can find furniture, art, décor, and design elements at the Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale Fall Edition that runs Friday through Sunday at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros. The weekend kicks off with an opening night party (tickets are available here) on Friday, October 15 at 6 PM. The main event continues all weekend, starting at 10 AM (registration is available here).
VOTING UNDERWAY: Our partners at The Coachella Valley Independent have started the next step in the process of determining the best of the best in the Coachella Valley for 2021-2022. The top vote-getters in each category have been selected, and now you can vote for the winners. To vote for your favorite in any one of multiple categories, start here.
NEW SHOW: Ben Zook, one of the creators and stars of the Web series Where the Bears Are, has a new one-person show in Palm Springs, The Dirty Show, playing Wednesday evenings this month. The show takes place outside at Dietl Art, 4629 E Sunny Dunes Rd. Doors open at 6:30 PM, and tickets are available here.
SINATRA CELEBRATION: Palm Springs Point of View, a YouTube channel that covers “Eats, Art and Culture” in Palm Springs and elsewhere in the Coachella Valley, is holding three events in the upcoming months to celebrate the life of Frank Sinatra, including one this week. The first Martinis and Moxie is scheduled for the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Rd., at 6 PM on Friday, October 15. Tickets for that event are available here.
TAHQUITZ CREEK CLEANING: The Tahquitz Creek Yacht Club meets to clean up a portion of Tahquitz Creek Channel at 8 AM on the third Saturday of every month. The next cleanup is this weekend, Saturday, October 16. Volunteers gather at the south end of the footbridge at South Camino Real and South Riverside Drive. You can find the club’s Facebook page here, and contact the club via email at [email protected].
NEXT PLAY: Palm Canyon Theatre’s production of Shrek The Musical opens October 22 and runs through November 7. Showtimes are 7 PM on Thursdays, 8 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 PM on Sundays. For tickets or other information, call the box office at 760-323-5123 or order online at PalmCanyonTheatre.org.
CENTER CELEBRATION: On Sunday, October 24 at 11 AM, the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert (The Center) officially cuts the ribbon after a multi-million-dollar renovation at its headquarters, the McDonald-Wright building, 1301 N. Palm Canyon Drive. To register for the free event, go here.
PRIDE RUN: The Palm Springs Pride 5K Run & Walk takes place Saturday, November 6 at 8 AM. The event is both in-person and virtual for 2021. Registration is available here.
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