KENT, Wash. – The Kent Police Department is understaffed and hiring.
When a city grows at the rapid rate that Kent has, the police department has to grow with it. There are currently 157 sworn officers on the force, and that is simply nowhere near enough.
“It’s playing catch up—there’s absolutely no question. We have not been able to significantly increase the number of police officers in the city,” Kent Mayor Dana Ralph explained.
Twenty years ago, there’d be as few of six officers patrolling the city at a given time. With a population of more than 128,500 people – you couldn’t get away with that today.
“A city our size should be in the 180s, we are authorized 160. And arguably 180 is the bottom end of where we should be. If you look at some of our comparables, we should be about 200 personnel,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said.
There are 17 immediate openings – but the budget only allows for three new officers to be hired each year moving forward.
“The city can only grow its economy so fast," Chief Padilla added.
A utility tax that failed on the ballot this year would’ve paid for an 25 more officers.
“We don’t have the money to hire officers. We had a ballot measure in April to hire an additional 23 and our residents said that they were not willing to pay any more taxes. So we’re doing a lot of ‘how do we make do with what we have’,” Mayor Ralph said.
In addition to competitive pay and benefits – the department is offering a $10,000 hiring bonus for experienced offers entering the department. There are also incentives to improve Kent’s 6% diversity level of its force.
“We’re actively pursuing an incentive for language pay. We want to recruit diversity, and we want to people who speak multiple languages. We may not get to 140 languages but were going to get as close as we can,” Chief Padilla said optimistically.
Unless the council puts another measure on the ballot and/or finds another create way to increase fund, the department will grow slowly. At this rate it would take four years to fill the 17 vacant slots.