Three officers sworn in as Kent Police seeks to fill vacancies

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph swore in three police officers as the city continues efforts to fill vacancies on the force.

Krishan Kumar, Keanu Hamilton and Ozzy Arjona were sworn in at the March 15 City Council meeting.

“We have challenges ahead, but we are making solid progress,” Police Chief Rafael Padilla said to the council during his Public Safety Report.

Padilla said the challenge is 17 positions remained unfilled. The department has 148 officers out of the 165 approved by the council.

“Since November we have hired 17 officers, which is a lot,” Padilla said. “That’s usually a year’s total.”

Padilla said the higher salaries approved last year by the council (16% pay hikes) and hiring incentives have helped fill the vacancies.

The salary range is from $83,278 to $116,938 annually with many officers making more even more after overtime, according to the city website.

Kent had dropped to the bottom in pay in 2021 compared to police agencies in Everett, Kirkland, Bellevue, Renton, Vancouver, Auburn and Federal Way, according to numbers provided by the city of Kent Human Resources Department. With the pay hike, however, Kent moved to the top of the list heading into 2022.

Qualifying in-state lateral (from other police departments) candidates receive a $25,000 hiring bonus. The bonus is $10,000 for out-of-state lateral officers. Qualifying lateral candidates may also receive front-loaded leave of up to 400 hours, according to the city website.

Padilla told the council last summer that 21 officers were leaving the department in 2021, with 13 moving to other states and eight retiring. Padilla said a couple of officers left the profession and others found better job opportunities outside of Washington.

One reason new officers are choosing Kent is because of support from elected officials, Padilla said.

The city provided brief bios on the three new officers:

Officer Krishan Kumar

Officer Kumar was born in the Fiji Islands and moved to Washington state with his family when he was 8 years old. He speaks Fiji-Hindu fluently.

Before he hired on with Kent he and his brothers started a Fijian food business in the greater Seattle area. Kumar has friends and family that live in the community and he spent a lot of time in Kent while growing up. He said he likes the cultural diversity of Kent and with his unique Indo-Fijian cultural background he hopes to work as a conduit between law enforcement and the large Pacific Islander and East Indian populations in Kent.

Kumar is the first Community Immersion Law Enforcement Program candidate. He spent time in the Kent community, via a nonprofit partner agency, prior to attending the police academy.

Officer Keanu Hamilton

Officer Hamilton is a lateral officer, meaning he has already attended the police academy. He was born in Washington and grew up in Everett and Marysville. He is a graduate of Tulalip Heritage High School, was an officer for Tulalip Police, and most recently worked for the Milton Police Department. He is currently enrolled in college and working towards his bachelor’s in business management.

Hamilton said he chose Kent because he is looking for a fast-paced community where he can make a greater difference. He is driven to help people in their time of need and sees Kent as a great place to serve.

When he’s not working, he plays multiple sports, and hangs out with girlfriend and family including his Saint Bernard/German Shepherd mix.

Officer Ozzy Arjona

Officer Arjona is another lateral police officer. He grew up in Texas, North Carolina, California and Germany as a the child of a member serving in the military. He worked for Dallas police in Texas, and most recently for Tukwila police.

Arjona has a bachelor’s in criminal justice, served in the Army for five years and the National Guard for 10 years. His most recent assignment was as a human intelligence collector. Arjona has had two deployments during his service, one to Iraq and one to Kosovo.

He said he chose Kent because he has friends and family that work in the city, and for KPD. He recognized through these relationships that KPD has great support from the mayor, council and community and is eager to work here.

In his off time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and his fur family, a German Shepherd, a Doberman and a cat. He has many eclectic interests including fishing, hiking and woodworking.

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Kent City Councilmember Zandria Michaud congratulates Officer Ozzy Arjona after his swearing in. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

Kent City Councilmember Zandria Michaud congratulates Officer Ozzy Arjona after his swearing in. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

Article Source: Kent Reporter