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.