Kent Mayor Dana Ralph and Police Chief Rafael Padilla were among the 55 people who represented the city at National Police Week in Washington, D.C.
Kent sent a large contingent May 12-17 to honor Officer Diego Moreno and Detective Derek Focht whose names were etched in the National Memorial Wall. The trip also helped officers trying to cope with the loss of fellow officers.
“The emotional wellness of our officers is a paramount responsibility of the city, and we believe it was important to make this investment,” Padilla said about the city paying more than $63,000 for 31 officers to make the trip. “Many of the officers who attended are still in the process of recovering from the devastating loss of Officer Diego Moreno, and others who attended were those tasked with facilitating support resources to our officers on an ongoing basis.”
Moreno, 35, was killed last July in the line of duty during a police pursuit. He had just placed spike strips along Kent Des Moines Road as officers responded to a shots fired call when a fellow officer accidentally crashed his SUV into Moreno.
A 20-year department veteran who became a detective in 2005, Focht, 47, died of a heart attack in April 2017.
The trip was important to remember the fallen, Padilla added, but it also served as an opportunity to soothe the mental health and well-being of officers.
“In addition to representing the department on behalf of our two fallen officers at both the candlelight vigil and the national memorial service, our officers were required to attend the Survivors’ Conference where they attended training and received support on a multitude of topics related to emotional wellness,” Padilla said in an email.
The training topics offered included Building Resiliency for Critical Incidents, Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress, Supporting Family Survivors, Supporting Co-Worker Survivors, Strategies for Critical Incident Debriefs, The Role of Peer Support, Officer Suicide Prevention and Intervention, Survivor’s Guilt, and Leadership’s Role in Building a Healthy Police Department.”
The city used revenue from its school traffic camera fund (speeding drivers in school zones) to pay airfare, hotel and meals, Padilla said. Several people paid their own way. Kent also covered the airfare ($3,876) for Moreno’s widow and Focht’s widow and two children. The airfare total for police officers totaled $19,653.
By city ordinance, any additional school traffic camera funds in excess of the costs of administering the program are to be used for enforcement and processing of traffic and criminal laws in the city. Officer training falls under those guidelines, Padilla said. Kent has collected more than $4 million in revenue since the camera program began in 2014.
“Although we hope to never have a need to send our officers to a survivors’ conference or the national memorial service to honor a fallen officer in the future, we believe we had an obligation to provide both the wellness training and the ability to properly mourn and recover,” Padilla said.
Ralph wrote about the trip to honor Moreno and Focht in her weekly newsletter.
“Both made significant contributions to the Kent Police Department and our community, and they made the ultimate sacrifice,” she said.
The non-profit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund sponsors the tribute each year. Names of 371 fallen law enforcement officers were read this year, including 158 who died in 2018, according to FBI.gov. A total of 21,910 names of fallen officers are on the memorial.
President John F. Kennedy’s administration started Police Week in 1962 when it designated May 15 at Peace Officers Memorial Day.