SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) The City of Santa Cruz will soon be looking for a new chief to lead their police department after current Chief of Police Andrew Mills announced he is resigning. Mills' last day with Santa Cruz will be October 29.
Mills has accepted a new position as chief of police in Palm Springs. KION spoke with Mills about his decision to leave the city.
"An opportunity arose to work in another fabulous city, that is a lot closer to my grandchildren and my children. So when this opportunity arose, we connected with the city and felt it was a really good relationship there where I could collaborate and continue to do the things that I really think are important," Mills said.
Mills was appointed chief of the Santa Cruz Police Department in July 2017. Before serving in Santa Cruz, Mills was chief in Eureka, CA, and a lieutenant for the San Diego Police Department.
During his time with Santa Cruz Police, Mills gained national attention for kneeling with protesters after the death of George Floyd. He has also been vocal on social media about police brutality.
"I believe we've made some strides toward eliminating racial bias and discrimination in policing under Chief Mills' leadership," said Brenda Griffin, President of the Santa Cruz County branch of the NAACP. "His willingness to work with community members, his willingness to get out into the community and hear the concerns of community members."
The city says Mills has been a leading figure in moving the police department toward community policing, transparency and strengthening the department's mental health response.
"Chief Mills was very progressive and that fit with the City of Santa Cruz. And so my guess, but only time will tell, is that the city will be looking for a similarly progressive chief," said Elizabeth Smith, Communications Manager for the City of Santa Cruz.
Interim City Manager Rosemary Menard will appoint an interim chief of police before Mills leaves at the end of the month. Smith says a permanent replacement likely won't be named until a new city manager is hired.
"The last time the city hired a police chief, it was a very open and engaged process with residents. It will be up to the new city manager as to how that process will go. But I expect that there will be community input in any recruitment because this is a very important position," said Smith.
People we spoke to say they hope the new chief will be able to crack down on drug and homeless problems in the city.
"The next chief of police, male or female should be empathic, but also know what the rules and the laws of California are and how people abide by those laws so we can clean up," said Adrian Bocanegra Combs. "They've done a good job keeping the downtown clean. But we need to take care of the homeless population, and housing is the most affordable way to do that and then take care of the drug abuse problem.
Chief Mills' resignation will be official on October 29.
"The main thing about policing is it's all about people. The people of this community, the men and women of this police department who sacrificed for this community and an amazing team of department heads and colleagues who really give it their all every single day to really make this a better place. And so I am just so grateful to have been part of that team," said Mills.