KENT, Wash. - Law enforcement agencies across Washington and the country are competing for the best candidates to join their team.
While some departments struggle to fill open positions, extensive recruiting efforts helped Kent Police Department fill all staffing vacancies.
From signing bonuses to campaigning at colleges, offering to take patrol cars home, personal contact, education sessions and an elevated social media presence—all of those measures resulted in 36 new hires for the department since May 2022.
"Very excited to see all that come into fruition and people on the street having contact with the community," said Assistant Police Chief Jarod Kasner.
The new hires include more women and people of color on the force. This brings the department back to a staff of 166 officers, which is the authorized amount under the city budget. Kasner said the recruits still have a ways to go before they’re out fighting crime.
"They have to go through training, finish up in the academy and then do the in-house training," said Kasner.
Once the police academy, paperwork and training at the department are complete, Kasner said the new hires would begin working in the community by late 2023 into the next year.
Still, more officers could not come at a more critical time in public safety. Leaders of area agencies said property crime numbers are reaching concerning highs including car thefts. In a new report from the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force, there were more than 45,000 cars stolen across Washington in 2022.
Kasner said Kent is also seeing a noticeable increase in car thefts.
"For parts, a ride or use that car to commit a crime because it’s not traced to the people who are driving it," said the assistant chief.
With crime rates reaching alarming levels nationwide, staffing at responding law enforcement agencies are stretched thin.
"Everybody across the nation is feeling the strains of low staffing, crime rates rising, all of that. And it’s basically a race to try to fill your numbers. But in our organization, not only is it a race, but we’re also looking for quality competency and really people in our organization that are going to positively impact the community," said Kasner.
Though the department has filled the vacancies, Kasner said their recruiting and hiring efforts won’t stop.
"Even though we may hit 166 on Tuesday, which is our authorized strength, we need more. There’s injuries, there’s retirements. So, the number is always a sliding scale," said Kasner. "The hope is there on all levels because we still deal with legislative impacts as well as our own staffing issues."
One of their most successful tools to get people to join their force will continue to be an elevated presence on social media, which Kasner said has proven to work in their favor despite the naysayers.
"A lot of times people say, ‘Oh, you’re just picking them up because they want to work here.’ Our mission is to get people in here, but also our mission is to make sure the Kent Police Departments and the City of Kent thrive. So, by trying to cut corners and just hire people without an investment on both ends, that’s where agencies, as well as ourselves, have fallen short in the past. So, learning from those past experiences is where our recruiting team made a huge impact," said Kasner.
More information about recruiting, hiring and career opportunities is available on Kent Police Department’s website.