The following is in response to a letter from Nathan Rich, Kirkland Police Guild President, criticizing the Kirkland Police Department:
Kirkland is considering changes to expand the pool of officers it can hire by accepting years of service as a police officer or a military veteran, as an alternative to education requirements only.
Kirkland Police officers are crime fighters, service providers, homeland security agents, peacekeepers, mental health workers, and community problems solvers. It’s becoming more difficult to find an adequate pool of candidates who are willing to do this difficult job. Recruiting and staffing shortfalls continue to plague law enforcement agencies across the United States. New challenges, including military call-ups, retirements, and increased competition for a much smaller applicant pool, have combined to make the problem more acute. This is a struggle for most every agency but some are moving forward with innovative approaches including pay incentives and a re-examination of some traditional application qualifications.
Kirkland’s goal for police recruitment is simply to hire the right people. Our business is serving people, so we must hire competent men and women with solid values. Our recruitment process examines an applicant’s intelligence, maturity, communication skills and core values. Identifying strong candidates is imperative for the advancement of community policing and the policing profession in general. None of this will change by expanding the candidate pool.
As the Chief of Police, I have a sworn duty to serve this community and staff it appropriately. To me, that means practicing creativity and flexibility. Both are essential for us to meet the challenges of hiring, while competing with our neighboring police agencies for quality individuals. Nine out of 10 of comparable cities in which we compete for Police Officers, offer alternatives to an education standard. Education is a great metric, but we need to implement other standards that allow us to hire the best candidates. Considering an applicant’s military service not only increases opportunities for our returning veterans but also provides the City of Kirkland with a “service above self” focused police officer.
The ideal applicant is an individual whose core values reflect those of our community. We all know many intelligent, brave, empathetic people, whose life path didn’t include college, but they still learned a great deal about diverse cultures, courage in the face of adversity, wisdom, empathy and maturity. Many of these current officers began their career at police agencies that had no college credit requirement, and yet, are presently providing outstanding service to their respective communities. Changing the college credit requirement for experienced police officers will give us the opportunity to interview such applicants and determine if they meet our high standards. There is no better way to assess an applicant’s suitability for our Police Department than to review their performance at their current police department to include their connectivity and daily interactions with their community.
I understand and respect the contrasting point of view that eliminating the “college requirement” may somehow be viewed as lowering the hiring standard. However, in reality this change will only be limited to experienced police officers or military veterans.
My goal as Chief is to increase, not reduce, the quality of the individuals who may someday have the honor of wearing our uniform in service to the Kirkland Police Department and this outstanding Kirkland community.
Chief Cherie Harris
Kirkland Police Department