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Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes looks back at his career & what’s next as retirement nears

Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes is set to retire at the end of next month, ending a nearly three decade long career with the department.

Reyes, 51, has received multiple recognitions and awards throughout his 27 years at the Palm Springs Police Department, including Officer of the Year back in 2000.

"It's never about you, and it should never be about you. It should be about the organization, the city, where things are at. And if you have the ability to leave and start enjoying life, do so," Reyes said

Reyes has been serving others since he was 18. He grew up in El Monte and joined the US Marine Corps directly out of high school, working in both artillery and as a military police-officer.

Chief Bryan Reyes during his time as a military officer

A few years later, he decided to become a cop.

Peter: "So you knew you wanted to do this at such a young age."
Reyes: "Yes."
Peter: "Why?"
Reyes: "I figured law enforcement there's always demand everywhere. And that's something you can do for truly for 30 years, and there's always something new to the profession."

Reyes began his career as a reserve officer for the Compton Police Department, when his close friend and colleague, Officer Jim McDonald, was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.

Officer Jim McDonald

Reyes says the experience opened his eyes to the dangers, trauma and sacrifice surrounding a career in law enforcement.

"I learned from the very onset of my career that you could lose your life at any given time in this profession. And I think that made my decisions when I became an early officer as far as being a real stickler when it came to officer safety," Reyes said.

In 1993, Reyes joined the Palm Springs Police Department as a patrol officer. He was on the SWAT team for 15 years and held every rank in the department. He became chief in February 2016 after a short tenure as acting chief following the retirement of Al Franz.

Bryan Reyes sworn-in as Palm Springs Police Chief

Peter: "Did you ever imagine you would be chief?"
Reyes: "No, no not at all."... "There's a lot of moving pieces when you get to this level, and I was fortunate to be selected to be the chief."

Just eight months after he became chief, Reyes led the department through its greatest crisis. When Officers Jose "Gil" Vega and Lesley Zerebny were shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance.

Reyes spoke passionately at their memorial service on.

"People need to start taking responsibility of their own households and stop ignoring the signs of escalating violent behavior," Reyes said

Peter: "How did that change you?"
Reyes: "It broke me and a lot of people here. And it changed a lot of people."

Reyes says the deaths were a monumental challenge for the grieving department which continues to honor and remember both fallen officers.

"They committed their entire life, 27-years-old and a 35-year-veteran there to serving others," Reyes said.

Their pictures remain on display in the department's hallway.

Vega and Zerebny's lockers are now Illuminated, containing their uniforms, badges and some personal belongings will forever pay tribute to them.

"Nobody will really understand what police officers are willing to do every day," Reyes said.

When asked what he considers his greatest accomplishment, Reyes says he's proud of the department's outreach in the community.

"It was important early on to build those relationships, and share information and express the importance that police in the community is a shared responsibility. It's not just your police department. We both share in this role to prevent crime before it occurs," Reyes said.

Though he's only 51, he says he had been mulling the decision to retire for some time.

Peter: "Why are you retiring?" :51
Reyes: "I figured it's time to try something new. I know I will not be standing idle in retirement, but at least I'll have a little bit of a break and figure out what the next chapter is."

And that chapter will include working on his five vintage trucks, Fords and Chevys from the 1920's and 30's, strap some old whiskey or wine barrels on them, and share his passion for prohibition-era history with his new company "Barrel Heist Events."

Reyes said he specifically waited to retire so he could pin the badge on his daughter, who recently graduated from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Academy.

She just began her career as a police officer with the city of Rialto.

"She calls me daily and she shares what she's experiencing, and I see myself all over again when I began," Reyes said.

Peter: "What will you miss most about being chief?"
Reyes: "All the internal personnel that we work with every single day. And our community overall."

Reyes' retirement comes during a challenging time for police nationwide, but he hopes people realize the sacrifices officers are willing to make to keep them-- and their community-- safe.

"Don't wait for those calls for service to be introduced to a police officer. Take the time to just approach them. Say thank you. That's all they ever ask for. And appreciate very much so," Reyes said.

Reyes chose to officially retire on August 23, the same day as his son's 15th birthday.

The city is now looking for qualified applicants to fill his position with the process is expected to take several months.

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Peter Daut

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