SUNNYVALE (CBS SF) — As more people talk about what police reform would look like, the city of Sunnyvale is one of the few major cities in the country that doesn’t have an official police department.
Instead, it has a Department of Public Safety and there are some major differences in the way the city provides its services.
What makes Sunnyvale, the 7th largest city in the Bay Area, unique is that each of its 200 DPS officers are trained in fire, police, and emergency medical services.
“It takes longer to train our officers because our officers have to go through three academies,” said Sunnyvale DPS Chief Phan Ngo, a former San Jose Police officer.
Each officer can end up wearing a different uniform on any given day in a city that has had only two homicide cases in the last three and a half years.
“Seeing that one officer doing different things on the fire side, which is more like a caretaker role and also on the police side as the enforcement role helps a little bit as far as the comfort level that people have with us here,” said Ngo.
Whether this model that has been around for decades in Sunnyvale would work in other cities is up for debate.
“I am a strong advocate of this model because there’s cost saving benefits to it and there’s more efficiencies to be found,” said Ngo.
Of the more than 18,000 agencies in the country, only 128 jurisdictions have merged police and fire departments according to Emergency Management publication.
Ngo says he hasn’t had specific conversations with other chiefs about merging police and fire departments, but it is a conversation he’s willing to have.
“Is it a phased approach? Is this something that can happen within a year or is it something that we say look this is a journey this is going to start now and it may take a while to get to where we want to be and be realistic with it,” said Ngo.