Federal Way looks to ramp up police hiring in wake of rise in gun violence

Dec 5, 2021, 8:23 AM
federal way police...
(Photo courtesy of Federal Way Police Department/Facebook)
(Photo courtesy of Federal Way Police Department/Facebook)

After a recent spike in violence in South King County, Federal Way Mayor Jim Farrell put out a call to his fellow mayors that something has to be done.

South King County mayors demand action from state to end rash of violence

Farrell was quick to note on Seattle’s Morning News that when he reached out to his fellow mayors, several of them — including the mayors of Auburn and Kent — had already decided to do this exact idea.

“I think it’s an idea whose time has come. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily my idea,” Farrell said. “I think that all the mayors in South King County, and city administrators and police chiefs, are ready to work together, to lock up arms.”

This level of violence, Farrell said, has reached an “unacceptable level.”

Speaking from Federal Way’s perspective, the mayor says they need to find multi-prong strategies to address this rise in violence and really work with the neighboring communities.

“If you think about it, all of South King County — Kent, Auburn, Renton, Tukwila, Des Moines, and SeaTac — we’re well over two-thirds of a million people. That’s a big collective voice and we need to have those voices heard,” he said.

As far as who’s committing the violence, Farrell says there has been a rise in violence with guns.

“We need to make sure that we get the guns out of the hands of the people committing these crimes, and that’s going to really involve some intelligence sharing by our police departments,” he said. “But I also think that we’ve got a situation in which we’ve got a record, all-time high 10 homicides in the city of Federal Way this year. Half of those — five out of 10 — we believe, and we have evidence to suggest, that they are … drug-related, meaning that there’s some sort of drug deal gone bad.”

“We’ve got a situation in the state of Washington right now where we’ve got de facto legalization of hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, based on this new structure that was passed in light of the [state] Supreme Court decision,” he added.

But aside from changes needed at the county executive level or the state level even, what can Farrell, as the mayor of Federal Way, do to take action?

He started his reply by saying he’s looking forward to meeting with other South King County mayors, hearing their suggestions, and bringing his own to the table. In Federal Way, he says there are a number of changes happening already.

“Number one, we were already at an all-time high of 137 officers budgeted. We’ve been filling the vacancies to get us to 137. But I just asked for an received the approval from our city council to add 13 new officers to the city of Federal Way to get us to 150, a historic high,” Farrell said. “Then what we’ve done is asked for authorization for overtime and extra patrols, what we call ProAct units, which are making sure that you show up at problem areas before the things occur.”

“That’s a big step, as well as extra patrols, overtime patrols on Pacific Highway 320 and in what we have determined to be high-impact areas,” he added.

Looking at Seattle where police officers continue to leave, KIRO Radio asked if Farrell thinks they’ll be able to hire more officers to get up to 150.

Farrell says absolutely. He noted that part of recruiting people involves making sure you have the pay and benefits and other incentives, and he says those are included in the budget proposal.

“There’s really two ways you can recruit officers,” he explained. “One is by laterals, from other law enforcement agencies where they’ve already gone through the training. And the other is brand-new officers, younger folks where you bring them in and they’ve got to go through the academy.”

“By bringing in new officers — obviously you only have a certain number of space in each academy — so we need to make sure that we’ve got sufficient funding for academy classes for the entire state,” Farrell said. “But we also need a mix of laterals as well, and that sort of mix institutionally at the city is very important.”

Federal Way will add those officers, though, Farrell assured.

“Probably about two or three per month until we get to that number,” he says, “probably by mid-next year.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Federal Way looks to ramp up police hiring in wake of rise in gun violence