Chief urges approval to increase police force; new lobbying firm hired by Council

By Jack Mayne

The police chief of Kent wants everyone to vote by April 24 to approve Proposition A to add 23 members to the city police force, and the City Council approved an interim measure to hire a new Olympia legislative lobbiest to replace the retiring 19-year veteran.

Police Proposition A
Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas told council there are just a few days left to vote in favor of Prop. A, which would allow the Police Department “to hire more than 20 police officers and supporting corrections officers, prosecutors, public defenders and court clerks. It will also allow the police department to expand operations of its special investigations unit to seven days a week.”

The city says a simple majority is required to pass the ballot measure and it would increase utility taxes by 2 percent, an impact on “the average Kent household” of “just over $11 per month.” The increase in utility taxes will raise about $4.8 million for police hires and the addition of more officers will reduce the amount of overtime that officers currently work.

Thomas said that now there are fewer Kent police officers per 1,000 residents compared to similar cities. The addition of more officers to the police force will bring Kent’s ratio of officers to population up to the average.

Council honors retiring lobbyist
Kent’s Olympia lobbyist since 1999, Doug Levy, was honored by the Council following his decision to leave. City Chief Administrator Derek Matheson said he and the mayor are recommending hiring Briahna Murray of the Tacoma firm of Gordon Thomas Honeywell for the Kent legislative lobbying position. Murray currently represents Tacoma, Bellevue and the adjacent City of SeaTac, among others.

Of the retiring Levy, the mayor said, “we appreciate your support on specific items, but also on the bigger picture addressing transportation, homelessness, crime, sustainability and others to help Kent better serve its residents and remain a solid leader in the region.” the mayor told the state lawmakers. Matheson said a two month interim contract is recommended to be followed by an 18-month contract in June.

In other business, the council heard from State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-33rd District, and State Rep. Mark Hargrove. R-47th District (pictured above).

Mayor Ralph noted lawmakers during the recent special session in Olympia approved money to add another basic law enforcement officer training class at the state law enforcement training center in Burien. The Kent Police hope to add 23 new officers in the near future.

The city also welcomed the Fern Crest Neighborhood Council as its 36th such council. The desire for such councils is growing every week, said Mayor Ralph.