Alberto Franz, III, was appointed to the position of Police Chief of the Palm Springs Police Department in June 2011. He has over 27 years of law enforcement experience, the last 26 years with the Palm Springs Police Department. He obtained his Associates Degree in Administration of Justice from College of the Desert, and graduated Cum Laude from Southern Illinois University, obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree in Workforce Education and Development.
Chief Al Franz began his career in law enforcement with the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department and served as a Deputy Sheriff before moving to the Palm Springs Police Department in 1987. As an officer, he worked assignments in patrol operations, detective bureau, served as a Field Training Officer training newly hired officers, and was a member of the Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team. Franz promoted to Sergeant in 1999 and supervised the patrol officers and Field Training Officers. Promoted to Lieutenant in 2005, he managed the patrol operations, investigations bureau and the SWAT Team. In 2009, he was promoted to Captain and managed the Services Division of the Police Department and then the Operations Division. He has worked every facet of law enforcement from patrol detail to the specialized detective assignment. He was appointed Interim Police Chief in January 2011 and served in that capacity until his promotion and appointment to Police Chief in June 2011.
Chief Franz, thanks so much for talking with me today–I’m impressed by your many years of service to the Palm Springs Police Department. I know you’ve said you “grew up” in the organization. Did you always want to be in law enforcement?
Chief Al Franz: No, not really. I took an interest in law enforcement while attending College of the Desert. I took some classes in Administration of Justice and went on a couple of ride-a-longs with different valley agencies and I was immediately hooked.
You were raised in Palm Springs. Why did you choose to stay and make your home and career here?
I really enjoy the Coachella Valley and I have family ties here. This is a good community. As soon as I was hired by Palm Springs Police Department I knew this was the place for me.
Since you became chief almost two years ago, what are the most important tasks and challenges you’ve faced?
Trying to maintain personnel for each shift and deploy those personnel and resources to where they are needed to address crime and quality of life issues is probably the biggest challenge. We are always looking at ways to improve efficiency when it comes to providing service to the community.
And I understand there’s a new mobile app we can download on our smart phones to communicate with the police department? Gotta love technology! Please tell me more about that.
The mobile app, created by CloudspaceMobile, is available to Apple and Android users. The mobile app is just being released so it’s still quite new to us. You can report certain issues (graffiti, traffic related issues, abandoned vehicles and suspicious activities), view information on wanted or missing persons, commend an employee, and connect to various helpful links all from your cell phone. It also has a place where you can catalogue your personal property with serial numbers, descriptions and photos for future reference if needed.
What do you feel are the most important law enforcement-related issues currently facing Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley?
Dealing with the impacts of Assembly Bill 109. Officers are arresting suspects who are being released early from county jail because there is simply no room in our county jails. Suspects who would have been sentenced to state prison prior to AB 109 are now serving their sentences in county jail. The county jails were not built for that. Their designed purpose is to house inmates for a year or less.
Please tell me a little more about this bill (AB 109); is it only for non-violent offenders?
In 2011, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, the state’s prison realignment plan aimed at reducing the prison population in order to comply with a federal mandate to reduce prison overcrowding. AB 109 shifts the responsibility for incarcerating many low-risk inmates from state to the counties. Also non-violent, non-serious, non-sex registrant felony offenders will be supervised by County Probation, not State Parole, upon release from prison. This past year we have been taking part in a multi-agency task force to check on these probationers.
Is there a re-entry or other such program in place to address the rate of recidivism?
Yes, there is a Day Reporting Center located in central Riverside that assists inmates being released to receive mental health, substance abuse, and other services that will help newly released inmates have a successful integration back into society. We are currently working with County Probation on establishing a day reporting center here in the Coachella Valley. The intent of this program and the overall goal is to reduce recidivism of the adult offender.
Chief Franz, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Racial demographics, increased sentencing laws, drug sentencing laws, and prison privatization are all reasons commonly cited for this. In your opinion as a law enforcement professional, why do you think the US incarceration rate is so high?
There are so many issues here that this particular question can be discussed for days. Certainly we have to do a better job to address alternatives to incarceration. We have thrown a lot of money at diversion and counseling programs and what we are doing is not working. We have to fix the system before you rehabilitate the clients.
How does the community of Palm Springs support the PSPD? I know you mentioned the neighborhood policing officer program, what other programs do you feel are effective and why?
We have a very supportive and involved community and our neighborhood organizations always step up and help out when we need them. We have so many community members that volunteer their time to the police department because they want to give back and help to make their community safe. We have increased our outreach and community engagement through social media and our new mobile application programs. We also run two sessions a year of our Citizen Police Academy. The Citizens academy gives our residents a chance to meet our officers and learn about the services the department provides and the successes of apprehension and prevention programs in the community.
When you’re not dedicating your time to the City of Palm Springs, how do you spend your free time? What would a typical weekend look like for you?
Just spending time with my wife and family and try to squeeze in a round of golf if time permits.
What is it that you most love about Palm Springs?
It’s just laid back, with ideal weather, natural beauty and there’s always something happening here.
Chief Al Franz, thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to tell us more about yourself and the PSPD today, and thanks for all you to do keep Palm Springs a safe and wonderful place to be!