By Mitchell Roland

During Tuesday’s (Feb. 16, 2021) Kent City Council meeting, Police Chief Rafael Padilla updated the council on several changes to department procedures, while several residents objected to a new cell tower on the west hill.

Kent Police Department updates several policies
Padilla said the Kent Police Department has completed the first round of updates related to their use of force guidelines. In this round, there were five policies where the policy and the language were updated. There were also two new policies introduced on officer de-escalation and their duty to intervene.

“In the policies of our de-escalation, this explicitly directs our officers to use these techniques when interacting with the community, obviously whenever feasible,” Padilla said. “This is something our officers have routinely practiced before, but now we have a policy that reinforces that.”

The updated duty to intervene policy will require officers to intervene if they observe excessive use of force and report the incident. Padilla said this was “something that was going on in our culture, and something we did,” but it will now be emphasized through policy. Padilla said it will now be a violation of department policy not to intervene in and report excessive force.

“This strengthens our intent on this, and we’re glad to let the public know that we have these,” Padilla said.

Padilla said there are several bills before the legislature this session that would mandate the changes the department has already enacted, and that he is looking at other potential changes to department policy.

“Looking forward, we are in the process of looking at all of our policies and updating those as we go,” Padilla said. “I will keep everybody posted on the updates as we get close to those.”

Locals object to a new cell tower near their homes
During the public comment period of the meeting, several west hill residents objected to the construction of a 5G cell tower at the Seattle Pet Cemetery, which is located near the intersection of Kent-Des Moines Road and Military Road South on the west hill.

Among the group’s complaints were that the cell tower was improperly built in a cemetery, that it is too close to their homes and allegations that the effects of 5G technology on the human body are not known.

While several of the people who spoke at the meeting are Kent residents, the land where the cell tower was constructed is in unincorporated King County.

“The authority to do anything would be by King County,” Council Member Les Thomas said during the meeting. “They were the ones that issued the initial permits.”

Thomas also said in Washington, rules around pet cemeteries are different than a cemetery for humans.

“There are strict laws about human cemeteries, and you are right, the cell tower could not be built on a human cemetery,” Thomas said. “However, those rules don’t apply to a pet cemetery.”

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said that while the tower is visible to Kent residents, since the property is in unincorporated King County, it falls under county jurisdiction.

“We do not have the ability to issue or un-issue permits, require that something that already exists, the cell tower that has been built, be torn down,” Ralph said.

Ralph encouraged the group to continue to reach out to the county and to contact their county council member, and work through their process. Council Members Thomas and Brenda Fincher said if there are human remains in the cemetery as well, as several speakers alleged during the meeting, then they may have a stronger case.

Fincher said she has visited the cemetery while on the Historical Kent tour, and she was told at that time that there are the remains of three people on the site.

“Because we were told that there actually are bodies there on the tour, I do think that it is worth your further effort to take this to King County Council,” Fincher said. “But everything does end up there for any decision or changing.”