Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes joined News Channel 3's Peter Daut during the special "Coronavirus: Questions Answered" program at 6:30 p.m.
Chief Reyes discussed a variety of topics, including the possibility of losing officers to budget cuts, an increase in calls related to mental health, and how reopening is going so far.
On Thursday, Chief Reyes joined other city leaders in taking part of a webinar that gave reopening guidance for restaurants and other businesses.
"I think it went well. As you know and as the viewers know, the rules are changing, and they are changing daily, a lot of cities and counties are now deferring to what the state is pointing out, and we witnessed over the past week how quickly it can change at the state level, and obviously cities and jurisdiction have to adjust to interpret those new directives, and we are fortunate here that has a city attorney that digs in the weeds with these new directives, and gives clarity for our community to comprehend this new directive," Chief Reyes said.
Chief Reyes says more businesses that have reopened have been compliant with the guidelines so far.
"I wish I could say they all have, for varying degrees whether they want to get out ahead to try and make a profit, or they don't understand, but for the most part, they are. There are a few that have not, and that is kind of the purpose for the meeting is to try and get some alignment, because, at the end of the day, it's not a race where someone finishes first. Everybody will finish together, in order for all of us to win as a community and city," Chief Reyes told Peter Daut.
Chief Reyes says while the Palm Springs Police Department has seen a drop in calls, however, there has been a rise in mental health-related calls for services.
"Although the number of calls for services have declined, what we witnessed the calls that we do have is causing our staff to be stuck on those calls for longer periods of time, and having multiple officers on those calls now. Very disturbing behavior as people have started to unravel given the circumstances, whether it be financial or whatever going on, it's very sad to see suicides and some of the odd behavior we normally didn't see as frequently as we have now," Chief Reyes said.
The City of Palm Springs is facing a projected budget shortfall of $76 million through next June. City leaders are considering cutting nearly $14 million in personnel costs. This could affect paramedics, fire, police, library, animal services.
Chief Reyes discussed the impact the city's huge loss in revenue has had on the police department.
"Although police officers are the one that are most visible 24 hours a day in the public, it's just not my department. The reality is that its all departments city wide, and a lot of departments that we rely on in support of us, like maitenance, parks and rec, and keeping people occupied, and its just overall, all departments city wide and that is some of the reasoning behind some of our messaging earlier, in that nobody wins unless we all win together, and that's why we all are aligned in our messaging in the businesses, how they police themselves, because it all comes down to that for us to recover and move to whatever our new normal would be," Chief Reyes said.
In Peter Daut's recent I-Team report "Breaking Down the Budgets," it was revealed that some of the cities like Palm Desert, are looking at reducing their police department and officers as a way to help save money. Chief Reyes expressed his concerns over the possibility of this happening.
"I must be concerned. As a chief of police, we are facing the freezing of several positions, both sworn and non-sworn support staff, but I must prepare contingency plans for next step if this continues, there's a potential for losing officers down the road if we stay on this path as being as closed as we have been," Chief Reyes said.
Chief Reyes says the department hasn't had any officers test positive for coronavirus, crediting their strict stance.
"We control the movement coming in and out of our facility. We take temperatures of all employees, there's only 2 entry points and exit points, they must take a temperature upon arriving in our facility, and as you might imagine, each department has various divisions. We made it a point to all of our employees, that you primarily stay within your division. Should we get compromised with an employee testing positive, our hope is that it will limit it to that area or division," Chief Reyes said.
Chief Reyes thanked the community for reaching out and donating food, and masks. He also credited the Mercedes the dealership in Palm Springs for taking PSPD's vehicles at no cost, and giving it a high level clean as often as they need.