PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - As the population continues to grow and recover from hard times in Palm Springs, some residents are calling for the police department to follow suit. A group is petitioning the city for more officers and more patrols, especially in downtown. Some restaurants in downtown report a rise of nearly 10% in sales from this time last year. With all the revenue making its way into the city, some know exactly where they want it to go. "One of the big benefits would be helping ensure the safety and security of the city residents and visitors through increasing our police force," said Thom Bettinger, who lives in Palm Springs.
Bettinger and other business owners in downtown started a petition on change.org. It asks the city to restore 30 positions lost a the police department during the recession and increase staffing overall. The city believes the 30% of the budget devoted to the police force is enough for now. "We have more officers in Palm Springs than any other city in the valley and I think that shows our commitment to public safety," said city manager David Ready.
Right now, there are 86 sworn officers from the chief down at PSPD. Forty of them are on patrol, which means four to six officers are on the streets during a regular shift. "That's no where near enough," said Sergeant William Hutchinson, the president of the Palm Springs Police Officers' Association. "At any given time, we have 100,000 to 150,000 people in our city."
The city plans to hire three civilian officers this year to help, but some business owners say at the rate the city's growing, that's not enough. "If you keep your police force down in numbers, then eventually something's going to catch up with it and it's going to be something we don't like," said Larry Bitonti, the owner of "Hair of the Dog."
That's something the police officers' association and the city also want to avoid. "We want to grow, we want to be able to provide the right public service and the right public safety to the community," said Sergeant Hutchinson. "We simply can't do it with the numbers we have right now."
Here is the link to the petition: