With community forums complete, police plan data dive to determine department direction
The Palm Springs Police Department collected 1,500 pieces of evidence last week, and none of it is headed for storage.
The evidence came in the form of sticky notes applied to boards displayed during five community events throughout the city. Roughly 400 residents who turned out for the events — designed as part workshop and part town hall — placed the notes on the boards, telling police exactly what their priorities should be.
For Cindy Madsen, her husband Craig Madsen, and neighbor Bruce Juenger, the chance to work directly with Police Chief Andy Mills and his leadership team during the final event Saturday at Demuth Park not only allowed for a closer connection to the people who patrol the city, but the opportunity to help fight crime simply by showing up.
The three Miralon residents all listed violent crime, specifically the sound of gunshots from nearby neighborhoods, as their top priorities for police to focus on in their part of the city.
“Everybody needs to be engaged to be part of problem-solving,” Craig Madsen said after the Demuth Park event.
Madsen’s remarks are likely to be music to Mills’ ears. He specifically designed the events as listening sessions to collect as much feedback from residents as possible.
“There has to be some level of commitment on the part of the community,” Mills said prior to Saturday’s event as he looked back on a week spent listening to community members. “You can’t just sit on Nextdoor and complain and not be part of the solution.”
Being part of the solution was made simple for four dozen residents who attended the Demuth Park event Saturday and those who attended earlier events. Members of the police department facilitated the workshops, walking them through the agenda and encouraging participation. First, residents listed their crime-fighting priorities on the sticky notes, with red being the most urgent. Then they gathered in groups to offer words and phrases that the department should use when crafting a new mission statement.
Among the words and phrases offered Saturday were engagement, transparency, availability, understanding, and professionalism. Similar terms were provided throughout the week, making it clear that residents want the police department to be more visible and engaged in the community, while upholding high standards of fairness and professionalism.
What differed, however, were police priorities residents in different parts of the city identified. In the north, residents were most concerned about violence, particularly repeated incidents of gunfire; in the center of the city, ongoing issues with crimes and drug use by homeless community members were the priority; in the south, police were told property crimes should be the focus.
Mills said he plans to assign a lieutenant to oversee operations in each of the three sections. Those lieutenants will direct officers to focus on the priorities identified by the residents in each area. That’s a departure from the department’s current practice, he said, which often sees police simply scrambling to cover reports of crimes throughout the city as they come in.
“If you’re focused on everything, you’re focused on nothing,” Mills told the audience Saturday.
Of 106 funded positions, Mills said only about 75 are currently filled due to injury, vacancies, and the need to devote 10 officers to Palm Springs International Airport. Still, he’s not convinced more police are the solution, saying Saturday that he will seek to hire an outside consultant to advise the city on appropriate staffing levels.
“This needs to be the safest city in this valley,” he told the crowd. “It’s going to take time. Big ships turn slowly.”
If remarks during and after the past week’s events are any indication, the community appears to understand. Most who spoke afterward said they recognize that the department is stretched thin, that officers are often limited in what they can do, and that change takes time. For now, simply asking the community to be involved is appreciated.
“I appreciate that these guys have better things to do with their days off,” said Cindy Madsen after Mills informed the audience that his staff had all volunteered to work the weekend event. “I’ve been highly impressed, and this is greatly appreciated.”
STATUE APPEAL: The hot potato issue of how to move forward with the removal and relocation of the statue of former Mayor Frank Bogert from in front of City Hall is back in the lap of the Palm Springs City Council. In an 18-page letter filed with the city Feb. 10, Rod Pacheco, who represents The Friends of Mayor Frank Bogert, claims that the city violated its own rules regarding historic site preservation, failed to follow California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) rules, and that state and federal law governing visual art on public display bars the city from removing the statue from its current location. Pacheco’s letter was submitted in appeal of a Feb. 1 decision by the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) to allow the removal and relocation of the statue to move forward. The appeal will be heard by the City Council at its next meeting on Feb. 24. READ THE FULL STORY HERE.
SHOOTING ARRESTS, SUSPICIOUS DEATH: Two men were arrested in connection with a shooting in downtown Palm Springs Saturday. The shooting, first reported in the 200 block of South Palm Canyon Drive at 10:30 p.m., did not result in any injuries. Shortly after the shooting, officers located and pulled over a vehicle driven by the suspects, a white Ford F-150, near Ramon and Compadre roads, police said. The driver, 18, and a passenger, 26, both male, were arrested and a handgun was allegedly located in the vehicle, according to police. The duo was booked into the Indio Larson Justice Center on suspicion of various gun crimes. On Sunday, both were released after posting bail. Also over the weekend, police responded to what they believe is a suspicious death in the 600 block of Rosa Parks Rd. Information is limited at this time, but the death has been ruled suspicious. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Coroner’s Bureau assisted Palm Springs police and will be conducting further follow-up in conjunction with Palm Springs detectives.
TEACHERS NEEDED: Palm Springs Unified School District is planning a recruitment fair on Feb. 26, seeking applicants in all subject areas who hold a teaching credential or will be eligible for a credential for the 2022-2023 school year. Registration is required and can be done through this form. After completing the form, expect registration and event details to be emailed to you. Applicants are asked to bring their resume, letter of introduction, and three letters of recommendation to the event. Recruitment bonuses of up to $10,000 are being offered.
HOLIDAY SCHEDULES: Most city, state, and federal offices are closed today for the Presidents Day holiday. Mail will not be delivered, and banks and schools, including College of the Desert, will be closed. Palm Springs Disposal Service is on its regular schedule this week, as are retailers and grocery stores. Sunline Transit offices are closed, and buses are on a holiday schedule.
? Today’s events
Highlights of what’s happening today in Palm Springs. Find complete listings on our community calendar.
- A Caravan Through African-American History in the city starts at 10 a.m. Find complete details here for this popular annual event.
- Modernism Week – the city’s annual celebration of all things midcentury modern – continues. Details are here.
? What to watch for
- A Palm Springs Walk of Stars dedication for Dr. Albert T. Milauskas is planned for 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
- A special study session of the Palm Springs City Council to discuss priorities takes place Tuesday evening, starting at 5:30 p.m.
- The point-in-time count of unhoused residents throughout the county is Tuesday. Volunteers are gathering in Palm Springs starting at 5:30 a.m.
- Palm Canyon Theatre has scheduled its next performance – Palm Springs Getaway – for three weekends starting Friday.
- McCormick’s 72nd Classic Car Auction is scheduled for Friday through Sunday.
- A homeless navigation center discussion is planned for March 3 at the James O. Jesse Desert Highlands Unity Center
- The Richard M. Milanovich Legacy Hike and 5K Run at Indian Canyons on March 12 is open for registration.
- Heart-to-Heart Palm Springs is selling tickets for its March 12 Military Women Appreciation Luncheon. Details are here.
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