This week, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph met with Rep. Tina Orwall, Chief Rafael Padilla, members of the city council and several local and regional community leaders at Kent City Hall for a work group meeting about the city’s pilot Community Immersion Law Enforcement Program (CILEP).

The city says this is a unique, first-of-its-kind program that pairs new police recruits with a community-based organization to put in 320 hours of community service helping the organization toward their goals.

The program is intended to provide police officers with firsthand experience engaging with the community and gaining understanding and cultural awareness.

“It was designed collaboratively with input from various stakeholders including local elected officials, members of the Kent Police Department, and many local community members and non-profit leaders,” the city said.

The Washington State Legislature allocated $45,000 to researchers in the School of Social Work & Criminal Justice (SSWCJ) at the University of Washington Tacoma to complete a process evaluation of the CILEP program.

The UW Tacoma research team presented an executive summary of their findings at the meeting. Their conclusion found that CILEP is a promising program with the potential to improve police-community relationships and to build knowledge and skills among new police recruits.

According to their findings, the clearest impact was related to the knowledge new recruits gain.

Their self-reports showed statistically significant gains over the course of program in their understanding of topics such as language diversity in the community, customs of cultural groups and knowledge of resources available to community members

They reported having in-depth, meaningful, and impactful interactions with refugee and asylee families during their placements that allowed them to more holistically understand the refugee and asylee experience and the challenges associated with acclimating to a new community.

Recruits also reported developing translatable skills such as navigating language barriers and adjusting their interpersonal approach based on cultural norms of community members.

These findings and more were submitted to the Washington State Legislature, and there was discussion of a possible work study in the House Public Safety Committee and a new budget proviso request.

“We’re all very excited about the success and promising future of this pilot program, and I’m proud that Kent is taking the initiative and leading the way in this important work,” Mayor Ralph said.

Scott Schaefer

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