KENT, Washington — After spending the early hours of the morning on Tuesday at the scene of an officer-involved shooting, Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla was not denying the problem of an increase in crime.
"We are seeing a trend, we've been seeing it the past three years in terms of violent crime and that's a regional issue, but it's definitely true for Kent," said Padilla.
His department's detectives are working 300 more cases than at this time last year, but much like last year, there isn't the number of officers on the street that he'd like to see.
Last year, there were several vacancies on the force, some of which have been filled. Under their current budget, Kent can have 161 officers, but Padilla said that number is not sufficient for a city of their size and the number of calls they have.
"For a city our size, we estimate we should be close to 185 and ideally toward the upper part of our comparable cities, we'd be near 200, 204," said Padilla.
In April 2018, there was a proposition to add a 2% utility tax to afford more officers, but that effort was voted down.
Padilla said the deficiency in numbers has caused burn out and some officers have left the force.
To help with that, Kent has altered the way they deal with lesser crimes. Officer response is reserved for higher priority cases, leaving calls like shoplifting and fender benders to e-reporting, where cases are filed digitally instead of with an officer.
Proactive efforts to thwart crime have also taken a back seat, according to Padilla.
"You talk about community policing, you talk about problem-oriented policing, you can't do any of that if your workforce is simply responding to calls for help. You have to be out there ahead of time, you have to be present," Padilla said.
Chief Padilla hopes to spend the next year working with the city to put another proposal together to go on the ballot next year. He's also planning on getting out into the community, explaining what citizens would be getting for their money so they can understand the need before they cast a vote.
"There is so much more potential, so much more we could do to make them safer," said Padilla. "We just don't have the resources and I think they deserve that."