Protecting Public Safety
Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers Association
Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers Association
The PSOA is actively engaged in issues that impact public safety and the quality of life in the City of Sunnyvale, our surrounding communities and beyond. Stay up to speed on the issues impacting your safety.
Wildfires ravaged the island of Maui earlier this month, decimating the historic town of Lahaina and resulting in the largest loss of human life by a fire in modern U.S. history.
Through it all, Maui’s police officers, firefighters, and EMS workers have worked tirelessly on the frontlines, shuttled people to safety, cared for the wounded, and currently are helping to lead one of the largest search, rescue, and recovery efforts in our lifetime. These heroes do this every day despite some losing their own homes and knowing that friends, family, and neighbors of theirs lost their homes, and some are among those who are missing or perished in the fire. Yet, they report for duty each day.
The PSOA is respectfully asking for your help by donating to one of the efforts below to directly support Maui’s police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, as well as non-sworn Maui residents who were tragically impacted by the devastating Maui wildfires.
Your contribution, whether large or small, can make a significant impact on the lives of those affected.
The PSOA has a special connection to the Hawaiian Islands, as a considerable number of DPS staff are from Hawai’i, and their friends and family are suffering through this tragedy. Please help us support the public safety heroes who are serving the people of Maui tirelessly under the toughest conditions imaginable.
You buzz by them at 60 miles per hour and miss the words in a blur of green and white. You crawl by them in snarled commute-hour traffic, maybe you read the name, maybe you wonder about the story behind it, but more often than not it becomes the yardstick of how long you’re suffering behind red brake lights.
Memorial signs decorate our freeways and highways. Each one carries a story and a significance to someone. There’s a sign I pass every day to and from work as a Sunnyvale Public Safety Officer that stand as a stark reminder of the dangerous work of a police officer. It’s the “San Jose Police Officer Michael Johnson Memorial Highway”, a stretch of Highway 87/Guadalupe Parkway dedicated to honor the sacrifice made by Officer Johnson who was murdered in the line of duty.
Officer Johnson’s sign has taken a beating over the years. It was knocked down by a vehicle and later reposted. It has been tagged with graffiti over and over—the ultimate smack in the face to someone who gave their life protecting others. When that sign is defaced with graffiti, the Sunnyvale PSOA cleans the graffiti away, over and over again.
The sign pays homage to the sacrifice of SJPD Officer Michael Johnson. On March 24th, 2015, Officer responded to the report of an intoxicated, possibly suicidal subject in an apartment. While on scene, officers learned that the subject possibly had access to two handguns. Officer Johnson along with other officers set up a perimeter around the apartment and took cover behind vehicles. The subject exited the apartment onto a second-floor balcony and fired multiple shots without warning. One shot struck Officer Johnson, killing him instantly. Officer Johnson served San Jose residents for 14 years. The PSOA will not let a punk with a spray can deface the heroism and sacrifice made by Officer Johnson. Ever.
The sign is more than white letters on a green background. It represents what we police officers call the thin blue line, the barrier of protection provided by us to keep our residents safe for those who choose to do harm. It’s a responsibility carried out selflessly by hundreds of thousands of men and women in the United States every day. We will not let a graffiti vandal tarnish our work or our profession.
Symbols reflect a community’s values. And this sign, like all other officer memorial signs, is a powerful symbol for every officer who passes by whether going to work, going home or as part of their shift. That is why the PSOA will never allow Officer Johnson’s sign to be left in disrepair.
We want our brothers and sisters of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association to know, the Sunnvyale PSOA has your back and we will never allow our fallen brother’s memory or service be sullied.
Help Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers assist children with cancer. This month DPS personnel will be buying and wearing these cancer awareness T-shirts. You can help the cause by buying your own shirt. All funds go to Cops Care Cancer Foundation.
Click this link to purchase your shirt. SALES ARE OPEN UNTIL WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 8.
Saturday night, two people were shot, one of whom died, at an excessively large “house party” in Sunnyvale with an estimated 150-200 participants. This incident rightly raises the concerns of Sunnyvale residents. However, some are recklessly criticizing our officers because they did not charge into the house with our “weapons” to clear out the party. That approach would put the party participants, the officers, and the other neighbors in immediate danger.
Two of our officers were dispatched to the location of the party, which is a standard response. Upon arriving on scene, they determined that the party had well over 100 attendees. Based on their training and experience in the field, they knew that if they entered the home to disperse the party, especially with visibly intoxicated participants, it could lead to several dangerous scenarios including: a stampede of attendees leaving all at once; physical fights between attendees while dispersing; attacks on officers; pushing large crowds onto adjacent properties as there would be no officers to clear those areas. The reactions would likely be even more aggressive if our officers attempted to disperse the party by force.
To put this “house party” in context, consider that 150-200 people would be the occupancy of the larger downtown bars. Now imagine the police trying to shut down those bars well before last call, with only two officers to provide security for everyone, including the officer, and in our Department’s case, also emergency medical response. We would never do that.
Our officers also learned that the “house party” was not authorized by the homeowner (it was an Airbnb rental), which typically means a more confrontational response by attendees when we attempt to disperse a large crowd, especially when drugs and alcohol could be involved.
Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers do not approach crowd dispersal as a weapons/force first approach. Rather, we would attempt to safely engage the participants and work on a methodical, organized dispersal process. This could take over an hour. We also seek to “de-escalate” situations rather than escalate them through force or by aggressive tactics. If we are waiting for backup before responding, it means we have no information that a potential life-threatening crime is in progress, and we are ensuring the safety of everyone involved.
Our officers had no way to know that a multiple-person shooting would take place, and we cannot assume that one will occur without any evidence as it would lead to panic and potentially aggressive responses from attendees. Sometimes, allowing more time to ensure we have the necessary resources is the best choice.
That being stated, there is another reason why Sunnyvale DPS response to the house party was delayed, low staffing. The PSOA has repeatedly stated that we do not have enough Public Safety Officers to respond quickly to calls for service, especially if it’s a larger-scale call like this huge house party. As such, we must prioritize or triage our calls for service. For example, a loud music/house party will be less of a priority than a burglary in process, a traffic accident, or an aggravated assault call.
In this case, DPS did not have any available units to respond to the party/noise call for service for nearly an hour. Once we did respond, it took additional time to get additional officers to the scene due to multiple factors, including call volume/staffing levels.
This problem will not get better in the near term, and it will not solve itself. Sunnyvale continues to grow, and as we add more and more housing units, without expanding our capacity to meet the needs of more residents, we will respond later and later to 911 calls. And that’s not just police calls. That includes fire and emergency medical calls as well. It’s simple mathematics.
Your Public Safety Officers are not TV movie action heroes who burst onto the scene, guns drawn, nor are we miracle workers capable of being in multiple locations at the same time. However, we will continue to do our level best to protect everyone’s safety with the resources we’ve been provided.
The City of Sunnyvale commissioned an expert to study the emergency response times of DPS crews throughout the entire city. Citygate, the City’s expert, found that during Sunnyvale’s brutal rush hour traffic, emergency response for fire and medical emergencies failed to meet established goals throughout the southern part of the city. Click here to read PSOA’s analysis of the failing response times, the impact of future development on those response times as well as the safety risk to residents, workers and property as a result.
As part of the City Council’s 2019 Priority Setting Session, the PSOA advocated for investments in recruiting and retaining Public Safety Officers as well as investing in safety equipment. Read the full letter here.
Unpaid invoices, bureaucratic red tape, and other mismanagement led to Sunnyvale’s Fire fleet of engines and trucks falling into a serious state of disrepair with operational issues such as failing breaks and shattered windshields that went unreplaced. Worse, brand-new fire engines sat in a vendor’s corporation yard for months because the City failed to pay the invoices. You can read our two letters to the City Council advising them of this catastrophe here and here.
The City Manager proposed cuts to the Department of Public Safety’s budget leading to a 20% cut in DPS Detectives, 20% cut in Community Policing as well as cuts to traffic enforcement even though traffic accidents are one of Sunnyvale’s top public safety concern. Click here to read the PSOA letter to the City Council and click here to read the PSOA’s follow up letter.