Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla raised issues April 20 at the Kent City Council meeting regarding the department’s effort to recruit new officers and how the pandemic has “stifled” the department’s ability to recruit and make connections in the community.
Padilla and city council members emphasized the need to recruit officers of color to make a more diverse police force that is more representative of the community’s demographics.
As of April 16, the Kent Police Department is just under 80 percent white officers, while only 42.7 percent of the population of Kent is made up of white people.
Other data indicates that 10 percent of the recent Kent Police Department applicants were Black, and 4 percent of the officers hired in the last two years were Black.
This can be compared to the fact that a little more than 60 percent of the recent Kent PD applicants were white, while 74 percent of the officers hired in the last two years were white.
Padilla also said that rates of female officer applicants are down to half of what they were in recent years. Only 12.3 percent of recent KPD applicants were female.
Councilmember Bill Boyce said the department’s recruiting efforts could use “improvement.”
Padilla said the department is reviewing its recruiting policies and protocols to increase the amount of applicants and to encourage more BIPOC applicants to apply. He said the department arranged a deal with the police union to give bonus pay incentives to officers who are bilingual.
He also said the department has changed some of their uniform policies that would have prohibited applicants with certain tattoos or hair styles.
The department has also changed a policy that prohibited applicants who may have used marijuana. Now applicants can still apply if they have not used marijuana for a year before applying.
Padilla said a large hindrance to their recruiting process has been that schools are closed and many of their programs and connections that help build interest among students to be police officers have been non-existent.