Here’s our recap of the Kent City Council meeting held on Tuesday night, Feb. 20, 2024:

Officer Awards

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla had several annual awards to bestow on stand-out officers. 2023 Officer of the Year went to Kevin Bateman, who has been with Kent PD for 28 years. Chief Padilla pointed out that Bateman is one of very few who have served longer than Padilla himself. According to the chief, Officer Bateman has a heart of gold. He utilizes his math aptitude as a collision investigator of the highest level. He is also lead instructor for the drone program. In addition, Bateman volunteers with Shop With a Cop.

Officer Fabiano Landi was honored as Corrections Officer of the Year. Chief Padilla said Landi has a positive, can-do attitude and he is always there for his peers. He also has a sincere interest in the welfare of the incarcerated people he works with, helping them to develop, recover, and re-enter society upon release. Officer Landi volunteers every year with National Night Out and Shop With a Cop.

The Chief’s Award For Exceptional Duty was presented to three officers, Officer Matt Fisher, and Detectives Chellsi James and Malcolm Wilson. The three officers were instrumental in a recent incident involving a hostile, armed, and possibly intoxicated man who fired his gun in a busy parking lot. The call went out while the officers were heading home after their shifts, and they made the decision to get to the scene and help out. According to Padilla, Detective James is a top negotiator in the area and Detective Wilson is a use of force expert, allowing for deescalation of what could have been a tragic situation. Officer Fisher was able to safely evacuate bystanders from the scene. No one was injured, and after several hours of negotiation, officers were able to safely take the man into custody.

The City of Kent Employee of the Year, for the second year in a row, went to someone in the police department, Officer Eric Steffes. Steffes is an exceptional officer, who has served in patrol, the Valley Gang Unit, and as a solo officer for a neighborhood response team. Chief Padilla said Officer Steffes has done such a good job on his own that nothing has fallen through the cracks. Steffes goes above and beyond, comes up with innovative solutions, and was the driving force behind the Community Safety Summit with small businesses.

Public Safety Report

Chief Ralph Padilla described two incidents that had just occurred the previous Friday. At 1pm officers responded to a shooting on a bus traveling through Kent. A 29 year old male had entered the bus and walked to its rear where he confronted a second man and hit him on the head. The victim of this attack pulled out a gun and shot the first man. The shooting is being regarded as self-defense, and the second man was in lawful possession of the firearm. Police and first-responders did their best to revive the man who was shot, but he died at the scene. No charges were filed.

That same evening, a Washington State Patrol Trooper was shot several times while in pursuit of a suspected intoxicated driver who had just crashed into a bystander vehicle. The driver fled the scene, and the WSP officer followed on foot. At some point, the suspect turned and fired, and the officer, when he was brought in, was found to have received nine bullet wounds. When Kent Police Officers arrived at the scene, they found the WSP Trooper in mortal condition. They were able to patch him up well enough to make it to Harborview. 

A two-hour large-scale search, using K9 units as well as air support, finally resulted in apprehending the suspect. Initially, the trooper’s gun was missing, but it was later discovered in the suspect’s backpack. The wounded officer is still recovering, in stable condition, and is expected to make a full recovery.

Public Comments

Former Councilmember Les Thomas spoke in support of Safe & Sane Fireworks. He said that Tukwila and SeaTac had both voted unanimously to allow groups to sell safer fireworks throughout their cities. Thomas said the bill was co-authored by Kent’s own fire marshall. After passing this legislation, Tukwila had their lowest number of fireworks-related calls in decades. Thomas said he would provide Council with copies of these city codes for consideration.

Another commenter spoke about the recent failure of public safety sales tax legislationthat Mayor Dana Ralph was depending on for financing new officers. He said that this money did not need to come from sales tax, and that the money necessary for the vital public safety positions could be found in other places.

Kent Commons Renovation

Council unanimously approved funding the first phase of a renovation of the Kent Commons Community Center. This 50,000 square foot building was built in 1979, and much of it has never been updated. The renovations include the main lobby, gymnasium, bathrooms, and weight room. Other areas will be renovated in the future.

The new lobby will have much more light, a polished concrete floor, a wood ceiling, and safety glass barriers for employees. There will also be glass doors to the gymnasium and an expanded weight room. The bathrooms will receive a much needed update, including private showers.

The engineers estimated the project would cost $1.3 million. The lowest bid, from Boyce Construction, will cost $1.5 million after tax. Councilmember Bill Boyce said this renovation is way overdue, and made it clear that he has no relation to the construction company. Mayor Dana Ralph said the city has been putting money away for this project for many years, and she is excited to see it coming to fruition.

Scott Schaefer

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