Mayor Ralph names Padilla to replace Thomas immediately as Kent Police chief

Unexpected announcement as Thomas steps aside after seven years

Rafael Padilla

Rafael Padilla

In an unexpected move, first-year Kent Mayor Dana Ralph announced on Tuesday that she has promoted Assistant Police Chief Rafael Padilla to replace Chief Ken Thomas – effective immediately.

Thomas has stepped aside to pursue other opportunities, according to a city of Kent news release. Thomas has been chief for seven years and worked 29 years for the Kent Police Department.

“Ken has accomplished a lot of great things during his time at the city, including lowering crime with intelligence-led policing and maintaining a high level of service with very limited resources,” Ralph said in the news release. “I especially want to thank Ken for his passionate advocacy for Proposition A and for building bridges between our police department and diverse community.”

Voters soundly rejected Proposition A on April 24 by 57 to 43 percent. The measure would have increased the city utility tax to 8 percent from 6 percent to hire 23 more officers.

As mayor, Ralph has the authority to replace department heads.

When Ralph became mayor in January, Ralph promoted Kurt Hanson to become the Economic and Community Development director. He replaced Ben Wolters, who left to pursue other opportunities, according to a city news release. Wolters worked 11 years for Kent. Ralph also promoted Pat Fitzpatrick to replace Tom Brubaker as city attorney. Brubaker retired Feb. 2 after 27 years with the city.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the Kent community for the past 29 years,” Thomas said in the news release. “I want to thank the community for their support of our police department. I also want to thank the hardworking law enforcement professionals who keep our community safe every day.”

Padilla began his law enforcement career as a police officer with the Honolulu Police Department in 1992. Padilla joined the Kent Police Department in 1997. Padilla is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Northwest Law Enforcement Command College, the International Association of Chiefs of Police – Leadership in Police Organization and holds an executive level career level certification through the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

“As an officer with the Kent Police Department for 21 years, Raf knows our city and this department inside and out,” Ralph said. “He has earned the respect of his fellow officers as well as the respect of our community. He has the leadership skills and abilities needed to build on the great work our police department is already doing to take the department to the next level, protecting and serving the Kent community.”

“I am so proud of the men and women of the Kent Police Department, and I am incredibly honored to have the opportunity to lead them into the future,” Padilla said.

Then-Mayor Suzette Cooke named Thomas chief in 2o11 after Steve Strachan resigned to become chief deputy of the King County Sheriff’s Office. Thomas was one of four finalists for the job. The other finalists were from outside the Kent Police Department.

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