Temecula (Calif.) Police Department

This Old West town's small force juggles city and county duties.

Roy Huntington Headshot

Chief James "Jim" Domenoe wears two hats, literally. As the Chief of the Temecula Police Department he dons the uniform and patches of that city. Yet, since Temecula is actually a "contract" city for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Domenoe is also a captain on the Sheriff's Department.

But the confusion stops there and clarity reigns supreme in Temecula. Since its incorporation in 1989, the city of Temecula has been a boomtown, growing at an astounding rate. With San Diego only 50 miles to the South and Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties just to the north, Temecula has become a bedroom community for the  "big cities" close by.

Surprisingly, this hasn't brought the normal problems associated with close proximity to large cities. This is mostly attributed to the Temecula PD's strong presence.

"I call it 'front end' police work," says Domenoe. "Be there before it happens and make it clear to all concerned we won't tolerate it." Domenoe smiled broadly as he talked about his great crew of officers, detectives, motors and others who make up the 67-member staff of the Temecula PD. Being part of the Riverside S.O., however, means Temecula doesn't suffer from that bane of many small agencies: a lack of training.

"While the city of Temecula funds us and, indeed, buys a percentage of our equipment, we are still part of the Sheriff's Department," explains Domenoe. "As such, we have all the advantages of both a big agency and a small one."

Temecula runs 24 black-and-white patrol units (including POP, traffic, crime prevention and patrol units), six motors, four unmarked units and has two ATVs, a GEM electric vehicle, a mobile command post trailer and bicycles. With the city population at about 67,000, Temecula enjoys an officer to citizen ratio of one to 1,000 - the envy of any agency.

Temecula is famous as a "wine country" town, with ranching, vineyards and farming nearby and a real feel of the old west. Temecula's "Old Town" area was a stagecoach stop in the late 1800s and is one of the oldest towns in the state. Having had its share of gunfights, ladies of the evening and bank robberies, Temecula has a solid place on the "Towns of the Wild West" map. This rural flavor continues today, but with a new mall, new housing tracts and SUVs by the hundreds, Temecula is well into the 21st century.

Crime, as one officer said, "almost doesn't exist." The strong proactive stand by the department is obvious in the low numbers of reported crimes. The citizens of Temecula are very happy with "their" cops and hold them in high esteem.

Equipment is first-rate, from Ford beat cars to new Harley Davidson motors; officers are well taken care of. The Riverside Sheriff's Department authorizes 9mm, .40 or .45 caliber handguns from a list of approved models, and officers can check out an AR-15 rifle for patrol, after completing a certification class. Remington 870 Wingmasters are standard issue in all patrol cars.

The Temecula PD is a full-service department with its own detective, traffic investigations and support services staff. Once assigned to Temecula, Riverside deputies can remain as long as they like, until they promote. The low crime rate allows cops there to concentrate on the needs of the public and, as Chief Domenoe says, "It's a dream town for cops."

Temecula PD at a Glance

Total officers: 67
Weapons: Approved handguns, 9mm, .40 and .45 CaliberAR-15/Remington 870
Patrol Units: Ford
Population: 67,000
Population median annual income: $64,000
Median home price: $214,000

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