Could Sunnyvale’s Public Safety Serve as a National Model for Policing?

Sunnyvale’s Public Safety Chief Phan Ngo was interviewed by Kai Ryssdal, on Marketplace, broadcast on public radio stations across the country. With national attention to the “defund the police” movement, Sunnyvale stands out as a place where we do things differently: our Department of Public Safety staff serve as Police, Fire, and EMS first-responders.

Ngo explains:

I went to a call of a house fire. And obviously, my fire personnel were out there, but in addition to that, there were patrol officers driving marked patrol vehicles that had changed into fire turnouts, and they were helping to put out the fire also.

So, after the fire was put out, one of my patrol officers came back to me and said, “Hey chief, I’m done here. I’m going to put back my police uniform and go back to answering police calls and service.”

Chief Ngo believes that the Public Safety model helps build trust with the community because Sunnyvale Police are also Firefighters: they are seen as helpers.

On the question of defunding:

What happened to George Floyd, it should never have happened … I think all of us are condemning what happened. It was just a terrible tragedy for our country … in terms of you talking about defunding, meaning divesting resources to other services like mental health, I am open to listening to what people have to say. I’m open to the idea of sharing resources, changing some of the things that we’re currently doing in law enforcement. But when you talk about completely defunding or abolishing law enforcement, I don’t believe that is a practical idea. Although I would be more than happy to sit down and hear what people have to say to discuss what that would look like if police departments across the country are completely abolished.

You can listen to or read the entire interview on Marketplace’s web site.

Sunnyvale Resident: Daniel Howard

[NOTE: This was originally a “Hello World” post written to kick off the site. This is not the intended format for a resident profile. -DH]

My name is Danny Howard. I grew up in Chicago, graduated from UIUC, and first moved to Mountain View in 1999, one of the ever streaming horde of ambitious kids who keep moving out here to pursue a high-tech career.

The Silicon Valley is a great place, blessed with opportunities and great weather. But it is very challenging to live out here: the rent keeps going up, the traffic is insane, the public transit system is pathetic, mortgages are out of reach, and you never know when the bubble will pop and leave you unemployed. In 2002, I ran out of opportunities, loaded all I had left in the car, and headed back East . . .

Our House, Northern Elevation, circa 2012 Crayon on Placemat

Our Sunnyvale Home and Family, Northern Elevation, circa 2012

In time I returned to the Bay Area. My career stabilized. I married. In 2012, thanks in part to the Mortgage Crisis, we were able to afford a home on the North side of Sunnyvale. Things are working well for my young family, but I eat my lunch with those ambitious kids who are confronting the challenges of life out here. For so many it is abundantly clear the Valley has no room for them to settle down. Their futures lie in remote, affordable cities, and they avoid becoming emotionally involved with the community they presently call home.

My friends and colleagues are some of the most ambitious, capable people on the planet. They live here–for now–but for their own emotional well-being they alienate themselves from our communities because they see they must leave. This breaks my heart and it is a tremendous loss for the rest of us.

Earlier this year I received the city newsletter, which advertised prominently for volunteers for Sunnyvale Boards and Commissions. I have long been interested in urban planning so I applied to the Planning Commission. I also became engaged with the Maude Avenue Bicycle Lane project. Consequently, I have become more involved in the civic process. I have published notes and articles on my personal web site, but I think these ideas deserve a home of their own. If this site can serve as a forum to promote ideas to improve life in the Silicon Valley, that broken heart of mine will know some joy.