A Riverside couple has made a $10,000 donation to the Riverside Police Department for police to use to help people obtain shelter, food or any other purpose arising from an emergency or incident that required police involvement.

Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said he was “stunned” by the gift, which the couple said they wanted to make anonymously. It’s the single largest donation the police department has received since he’s been chief, Weitzel said.

“The couple approached me in December and said they wanted to make a donation to help the less fortunate people who couldn’t get assistance through normal channels or who couldn’t get it right away,” Weitzel said.

Weitzel said that he has written a policy on how the money is to be used and said he will place cash in a lockbox that is accessible to police supervisors, who must provide written explanations about how much was used, for whom and for what purpose.

“There has to be police involvement, a police response,” said Weitzel, referring to how individual cases would be judged appropriate. “I’ll leave it up to the supervisors, but they have to make a determination this is a legitimate use.”

A classic example for using the funds, said Weitzel, was in the case of helping someone seeking to escape domestic violence, sometime in the middle of the night.

“The people who come in are almost exclusively female, with children, looking to get out of a situation and needing a day or two to get set,” Weitzel said. “We can pay for a hotel.”

Weitzel said the money might also go to help such a person pay legal expenses related to obtaining an order of protection, though he figured such cases would be rare.

In some instances, Weitzel said, police encounter homeless people – one man recently has been trying to sleep inside the enclosed vestibule of the police station – and money could be used to buy food.

According to Weitzel, the donors put no strings on how police determined to use it. But, Weitzel said that he wants the money to be used “in emergency situation that benefit families.”

Donations to the police department are not uncommon, though the amounts tend to be more in the hundreds of dollars and often are made to purchase equipment or to fund crime prevention efforts, said Weitzel.

This particular donation, he said, was an eye-opener.

“I was overwhelmed they’d be so generous,’ Weitzel said.

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