Kent mayor says 50% cut to police budget is ‘reckless’

Aug 20, 2020, 8:47 AM | Updated: 11:32 am
Kent police...
(Photo courtesy of Kent Police Department)
(Photo courtesy of Kent Police Department)

While the mayor of Kent just walked back a pledge to hire more police officers, which would have gone to a ballot measure, activists are still pushing for a 50% defunding of police.

Mayor Dana Ralph told Jason Rantz on KTTH that a 50% cut to the Kent police department’s budget is “reckless.”

“We know that the majority of the police department budget goes to pay salaries of officers, so a 50% cut would decimate our department and we would not have the ability to respond to calls,” she said. “And quite honestly, we wouldn’t have the ability to do the kind of community outreach that we’re hearing people want, … it wouldn’t allow our officers the time to develop those relationships.”

In response to the activists pushing to defund the police, Ralph says she’s not going to propose a defunding in her budget presented to council at the end of September, but she is open to conversation.

“I am absolutely willing to sit down with that group or any others and have a conversation about what the end goal really looks like,” she said. “And I truly believe it’s an engagement path that we have to be on, right? It’s everybody sitting down at the table and working toward a desired outcome. It’s not just slashing the number of officers we have in our city.”

“I do not understand how an understaffed police department becomes a better trained, more effective police department. The two, in my mind, don’t relate,” Ralph added.

The mayor also said that she is getting emails at a ratio of 6-7 to one that says, “do not defund the police, we support them.”

“So I really do believe that the majority of Kent residents do not support and would not support a defunding of our police department.”

In fact, the mayor is hoping to add 30 officers and some support staff to the Kent police department.

“We talked about it going back to February and very, very early March of this year that our police department is understaffed by 30 to 40 officers,” Ralph said. “And we were considering taking a measure to the ballot to raise the revenue to hire those officers. With the COVID situation and the economic impact it’s had on, quite honestly, all of our residents, we just didn’t feel that the timing was right to go out for a tax increase.”

The need for more officers does still remain. For now, Ralph says, Kent police will have to keep up the same pace.

“We’re going to continue doing the work that our officers are doing every day, being engaged in the community, working with community partners,” she said. “And they’re just going to keep up with the hectic pace that they already have. We have been on a path over the last few years of adding one or two officers at a time, and the initiative would really just have helped us get caught up.”

General policing and 911 calls, Ralph says, is where the gaps are in staffing for the department.

“Right now, our officers are in a pattern of going from call to call to call. … The additional officers would help relieve that burden. It would have also allowed us to have additional support in things like our officers’ homeless outreach, investigations, all of those kind of things as well,” she said.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Kent mayor says 50% cut to police budget is ‘reckless’