Jen Prusa, one of the hardest-working and well-known Kent Police officers, has left the building.
Prusa retired June 30 after 13 years in Kent following 15 years with the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office in Kelso.
“When I think of Jen the traits that come to mind are unbelievable work ethic, straight talker, courageous, caring, feisty, fun and bad (%$#),” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said in a printed statement that announced Prusa’s retirement. “Jen probably crammed 40 years of work in her 28-year career and her work was always of very high quality.”
Prusa never hesitated to work extra hours. Prusa worked 1,063 overtime hours in 2015, more than 200 hours higher than the next officer, according to city records obtained through a public records request by the Kent Reporter in a 2016 article. She earned extra pay of $68,525, tops among the nearly 150 officers on the force in 2015. If averaged over a 52-week period, she worked more than 60 hours per week.
“It is safe to assume that most of her overtime was voluntary and some of her overtime was required as part of her job assignment,” Padilla said in the 2016 article when he was an assistant police chief.
Jim Berrios, a City Council member in 2016 who chaired the council’s Public Safety Committee, said in the article that he spent time earlier in the year on patrol with Prusa and she talked about working a lot of overtime because of her duties as a Neighborhood Response Team leader and filling in as an acting sergeant due to sick leave of another officer.
“She was clear she knows her limitations,” Berrios said. “She made a decision whether to work extra hours and there is a need for extra time. She helped out the team with her extra time.”
Prusa, in a Kent Police statement about her retirement, said she wants to be remembered as a team player and for trying to solve issues rather than pass them on to someone else. She wants new officers to work hard, but play hard as well. She also had further advice.
“You will work with a variety of people with different personalities and skills,” Prusa said. “They are all valuable to you and the department. You don’t always have to agree, but you should try to see their reasoning.”
Prusa said her favorite role with Kent was as a member of the Neighborhood Response Team. That job made her known to many residents.
Prusa helped neighborhoods to strategize on how to solve problems specific to their location. She showed up at events and worked to facilitate problem solving between parties. She spent thousands of hours answering 911 calls, strategized solutions to ongoing issues in neighborhoods, and connected with Kent residents.
“We know you know her, because she attended so many of your parades, community events, ice cream socials and neighborhood meetings,” according to a police statement.
In an example of the danger officers face each day on the job, an Arizona man police were trying to find after a witness saw him driving drunk on Pacific Highway South in 2018, assaulted Prusa after she had tracked him down to a West Hill home, according to a 2018 Kent Reporter article.
Prusa knocked on the front door and the man agreed to step outside. A pickup that a witness to the DUI incident saw the man get out of was parked near the home. The man denied the truck was his. Prusa said the man had trouble keeping his balance and seemed to be impaired. She grabbed his forearm to take him into custody, but the man decided to fight.
The man threw punches at Prusa and eventually grabbed her flashlight and struck her in the head and face about eight times, according to the police report. Prusa told a Kent detective she was in fear of being killed.
Despite her injuries (she suffered an orbital floor fracture to her face, a broken nose and a bruised eye that was swollen shut), Prusa got off the ground and used her radio for a Code 2, which means she is in desperate need of immediate assistance and all officers available should respond. A short time later, officers took the man into custody. Police later found out the man had robbed an Olympia convenience story earlier in the day.
In addition to Prusa’s work with the Neighborhood Response Team, she was very adept at being a point person for communicating vital crime fighting information.
“She personally committed herself to reading virtually all department reports and crime bulletins and had a knack for piecing together information to tie suspects to multiple crimes,” according to a police statement. “She worked to be that person other officers and detectives could call and ask, ‘who was that one guy?’ and felt she was a valuable resource for her community and co-workers.”
Padilla said the department will definitely miss Prusa.
“She was most certainly a problem solver,” Padilla said. “Jen ran things behind the scenes and was often called upon to be an acting sergeant. Jen also made her teams stronger by coordinating potlucks, BBQs, and social events. I truly appreciated Officer Jen Prusa’s service and commitment to serving the City of Kent and her KPD family.”