Kent City Council forwards public safety facilities bond measure to voters
KENT, Wash. – July 2, 2014 - The Kent City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to refer a $34 million bond measure to voters during the next November election. The purpose of the measure is to construct and equip new public safety and training facilities to accommodate a growing police force.
The existing police headquarters is a remodeled library originally designed to accommodate 85 officers back in 1991. Today, the police force includes 144 officers with planned growth to 160 by 2017, not including the jail, administrative staff, police records specialists, or evidence custodians and technicians.
According to Chief Ken Thomas, officers, detectives and support staff are scattered among four different buildings.
“Being in separate locations really impedes the communication that’s so critical to our most important initiative – Intelligence Led Policing. This strategy allows us to focus resources in high crime areas and on high impact criminals. The ability to more effectively meet and work together improves our ability to solve crimes,” Thomas said.
The bond would pay to demolish the existing building and construct a new police headquarters at its current location. Police officers and staff would be relocated temporarily.
Besides being spread out, Chief Thomas noted officers lack the space to adequately prepare for safety missions.
“Officers are stacked two-three people per cubicle; even broom closets have been converted to office space,” Thomas said.
If passed, the measure will also cover the cost of upgrades at the Kent City Jail and firearms training facility.
Chief Thomas said the jail does not have the mental health crisis cell capacity to secure the mentally ill which make up about half of the jail population.
“If this measure passes, we’ll construct additional crisis cells at the jail, and replace badly-needed wiring and plumbing, extending its life for about 30 more years.
“We’ll also double the size of our 25-year-old firearms training facility to provide realistic training for critical incidents, including situations involving active shooters,” Thomas said.
“I applaud my colleagues for taking this step and bringing this issue to Kent voters. It is essential we have a consolidated police force. They cannot do their best police work in a building meant for 85 officers when we now have 144. With plans to grow to 160 officers, they need more space to effectively do their jobs and maintain our safety,” said Council President Dana Ralph, also a member of the city’s Public Safety Committee.
“When I first toured the police facilities, I was struck by how inadequate and inefficient they are. “We are better than this,” Ralph said.
Fellow Public Safety Committee member Les Thomas says nothing is more important than a safe community.
“The conditions today are appalling. We must provide our officers the tools they need to continue to keep Kent safe,” Thomas said.
The measure requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass, and if voters approve, would authorize the collection of about 19 cents per $1000 of assessed property value, or approximately $57 a year for a $300,000 home.
Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke thanked officers and staff for maintaining such high levels of performance.
“I sincerely appreciate the dedication and professionalism shown by all of our police personnel while working in these conditions,” Cooke said.
Michelle Wilmot, City of Kent, Community and Public Affairs