Read the Kirkland Chief of Police response here.
Like many other police agencies across the country, the Kirkland Police Department is having a hard time filling the ranks. On a national scale, we (police) are hard-pressed to find men and women who want to serve their communities. I often sit on hiring boards and am impressed with the people who want to make law enforcement a career. With police being targeted for assassination, there are still those with the courage to stand on the thin blue line. We have hired some of these brave men and women in the last few months. However, the reality is that even if they have no trouble in their training, I will not see them working solo as police officers for almost a full year.
Kirkland Police is in a staffing crisis. We have pulled officers from the traffic division and detectives to shore up patrol. Patrol is the backbone of any department and is the core service we provide to the public.
As an organization, we have failed to plan for retirements. We have not done our job preparing for a staffing shortage. So how do we fix this problem? We have changed the way we recruit. We use radio and other media to attract candidates. Kirkland has drawn some great new applicants and in a year or so, they will be trained and ready to serve the city.
But how do we get quality lateral applicants who can be on the road in three or four months, bringing previous experience with them? The city wants and would benefit from laterals, but we are not successfully attracting them to Kirkland. Other cities have been successful in attracting lateral candidates. Some offer signing bonuses. Some offer better wage and benefit packages. Some offer a wider variety of specialty unit opportunities. And some have lowered standards. I found out in August that Kirkland PD was among the latter.
One of the basic requirements for Kirkland PD is 60 semester or 90 quarter hours from a college or university. We have had that education requirement my entire 18-year career. On August 1st of this year, Chief Harris sent a memo to the Civil Service Commission. She stated, “In accordance with Kirkland Municipal Code Section 3.54.050 (as amended recently by Ordinance O-4527), the purpose of the memorandum is to advise you of our intent as the Appointing Authority to no longer require that lateral hire police officer candidates have completed two years of accredited college credit hours.” Lowering our hiring standards will not benefit the Department or the citizens we serve.
As the Police Union President, I have opposed this change in front of the City Council and at the Civil Service level. The above-mentioned ordinance ensured that the Civil Service Commission had no say in the requirements to hire a lateral police officer.
I would encourage the citizens of Kirkland to contact their City Council and voice their dissent with lowering standards. The citizens of Kirkland have come to expect the highest standards from their Police Department and its officers. Do not start lowering them now. Lowering standards will not solve the staffing crisis we are facing. When this does not work, what else will we be willing to change? Please contact your City Council and tell them this is not an acceptable way to solve staffing issues.
Nathan Rich, Kirkland Police Guild President