The Mountain View Public Safety Foundation supported Mountain View Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services for five years by providing some of the funds for training, technology and equipment – and it was an all-volunteer effort.
That all changed in 2019 as the nonprofit MVPSF began to grow. The first staff member – executive director Joy Garza – was hired early last year and the organization hosted its first fundraiser last fall. Now, as it continues to expand, MVPSF has set bigger and broader goals for 2020.
Former Mountain View police officer Pete DeLaOssa founded MVPSF with former Mountain View Chamber of Commerce CEO Tony Siress and entrepreneur Ross Dargahi in 2013. Their goal: “Making the city of Mountain View a better and safer place in which to live and work” and “to collectively serve our communities through public safety and community partnerships,” according to the organization’s mission and vision statement.
At the time, the trio wanted to pay for a training session for Mountain View police officers in firearms skill-building. The department was not allowed to accept their offer, however, which prompted them to form MVPSF to change that.
“The police department didn’t have a way of accepting donations, money or other gifts from community members,” said DeLaOssa, a Mountain View High School graduate. “Any outside offers to donate, give or otherwise not charge the departments were viewed as gratuities. That was not acceptable per city and department policy.”
Furthermore, the training, technology and equipment needs of public safety departments could not be sufficiently met given “the ebb and flow of city budget processes,” Garza said. Currently, approximately 90% of the police and 92.5% of the fire department annual budgets are used to pay officers and personnel, according to the MVPSF website, leaving little room for other expenses.
“There has been a steady decrease of funding from some state and federal agencies in the area of public safety training and equipment, so this is where our nonprofit can step in and bridge the gap,” she added.
This trend began after the 2008 recession, DeLaOssa said, when both the city and police department were especially careful with their spending. For example, if officers wanted to travel to attend training, they often had to negotiate with the department to pay for some of the expenses.
“I felt this was wrong,” he said. “The employee should not incur any costs for improving their knowledge, skills and abilities that go to policing the city.”
DeLaOssa added that training is as important as ever for police officers, because there are fewer opportunities for them to maintain their skills on the streets.
“The police officers during (1980s and 1990s) were able to perfect their police skills and knowledge because we saw a lot of (crime),” said DeLaOssa, who started his career at the Mountain View Police Department as an explorer in 1980 and rose to the rank of sergeant. “Today, police officers don’t see or experience the level and quantity we saw. ... Training and rehearsing is now more critical than ever.”
With that in mind, MVPSF has funded $26,000 of equipment and services for the police and fire departments, donated $22,000 to other training and public safety organizations and contributed $42,000 for training opportunities, according to Garza. That includes a mental-health-focused training last year that nearly 500 first responders and their families attended free of charge.
“The training provided help for the professionals and their families in maintaining and/or improving their quality of life both personally and professionally,” Garza said. “It is training like this that we would like to continue to offer, but we need more support.”
In addition to meeting the police and fire departments’ training and equipment needs, MVPSF has been involved in community outreach. It has sponsored numerous community projects initiated by the police department, including the Mountain View Police Activities League – which hosts activities aimed at developing mutual respect between youth and the police and preventing crime – the Cops & Gobblers annual food drive and the Cops that Care Christmas toy drive.
“These programs align with our mission with the ultimate goal of making our communities a better and safer place in which to live and work,” Garza said.
For several years, MVPSF has provided for and supplemented the costs of such programs and other needs. As the foundation grew in 2019, it hit several milestones.
It hired first staff member Garza in January, hosted its first fundraiser in November – a dinner with silent and live auctions that raised $29,000 – and acquired Mountain View’s Police Activities League in hopes of expanding its youth programs.
After a year filled with many changes, the foundation has several news goals for 2020. In addition to maintaining its current training programs and equipment assistance, the foundation hopes to expand the Police Activities League, offer active-shooter training to local businesses, provide health and wellness services to officers and partner with Rebuilding Together to assist vulnerable populations in home renovations.
However, one of its main focuses is sponsoring scholarships for police academy students.
“Many departments have been facing a staffing shortage the past several years,” Garza said. “Finding and retaining qualified professionals that want to go into police work is now a challenge. There needs to be a focus on growing youth to workforce pipeline initiatives and incentives toward the law enforcement profession. MVPSF would like to contribute in any way we can, and we are going to start with scholarships.”
With these goals and future projects for MVPSF, DeLaOssa is excited for 2020.
“We are continuing the march,” he said.
For more information, visit mvpsf.org.