Kent Police officers stopped seven years ago using a knee on the neck move to control a suspect that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“We moved in 2013 to a shoulder pin,” Police Chief Rafael Padilla told the City Council during his June 2 Public Safety report about one method (if believed necessary) officers use to control a suspect to handcuff them. “A knee on neck technique was a industry standard for many years, but there is a risk for injury. We moved away from that because we were looking for a safer way to do things. We moved from the neck to the shoulder.”
Padilla said the shoulder-pin style of handcuffing was developed by the department’s master defensive tactics instructor as a more effective and safer alternative.
“There is no pretty way to use force to control another human being, it always looks violent,” Padilla said. “But we look at how to reduce injuries.”
Officers also are trained to be aware of airway and breathing issues during arrest and once the suspect is under control, de-escalate and move suspect to a recovery position.
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin faces a second-degree murder charge after he knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes until he could no longer breathe. Three other former officers who were present but failed to intervene face aiding and abetting murder charges. The death of Floyd, a black man pinned to the ground by a white officer, has led to protests across the nation.
Padilla said he had received questions from residents over the last week about where the Kent Police Department and chief stand on the issue.
“I want to make it really clear,” Padilla said. “Where we stand is we stand with you. I absolutely detest and condemn what happened. …if it happened here we would fire the officers involved and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
But Padilla quickly said that such a killing of a black man wouldn’t happen in Kent because of the department’s strong partnerships with communities of color that it has worked to build over the years.
“That’s something we think is very fortunate,” Padilla said.
The department held 13 community focus groups involving more than 100 residents in 2016, meeting with business owners and residents. The goal of the focus group was to determine if the department was meeting expectations of the community and it discovered for the most part it was.
Kent officers starting using body-worn cameras in 2019, a change led by Mayor Dana Ralph.
“We have exceptional accountability measures,” Padilla said. “We are one of only a handful of departments (in the state) that has body-worn cameras. There is no hiding what happened good or bad. It gives accountability on a very high level.”
The chief said the type of person an officer is plays a big role in which officers are hired in Kent.
“They are people who have to love people first,” Padilla said. “You have to be someone who cares and has that in your heart or you can’t work for the Kent Police Department.”
Kent also gives officers implicit bias training (to increase self-awareness of unconscious biases around race, class and gender), diversity training and de-escalation training.
“We were one of the first departments to do implicit bias training,” Padilla said. “We have been very proactive.”
Padilla said mandatory investigations are required if an officer is accused of racism or profiling.
“We search for the truth and if not done correctly, we correct it,” he said.
Kent has not had the protests and looters the last week or so that have hit the streets of Seattle, Bellevue, Tukwila, Auburn, Olympia and other cities. If looters hit the city, Kent Police would respond.
“We stand ready and will not tolerate violence and destruction in the streets, I will not stand by and let the city burn,” Padilla said. “But we welcome peaceful protests.”
The chief wants to see change happen.
“We are committed to work with all of you,” he said. “I talked about where we stand we stand with you. We want to see Kent, the country and the world where we don’t have these issues.”
Padilla wrapped up his presentation.
“We can all come together and stand against hate, racism and roll up our sleeves to work to get our community to what we all want it to be,” he said.
Councilmember Bill Boyce told Padilla people have asked him about whether the Kent Police Department could have incidents similar to Minneapolis.
“I tell them our chief is not afraid to have the conversation if there is an issue,” Boyce said. “I am very confident you and your team are prepared and we will not have this in Kent.”
Councilmember Brenda Fincher said she appreciates how Padilla runs the department.
“I want to thank the chief for his openness,” she said. “Whether it’s a question we had or residents had. I’ve always thought Kent is a step above the rest of the country.”
Ralph said with everything going on, people have asked her about the Kent Police Department.
“The past week or so I have received a significant number of emails wondering what Kent is doing to prevent what we saw in Minneapolis,” Ralph said. “I told them about the work we were doing before this tragedy. I’m grateful we are building solid relationships with the community and that starts with transparency and trust.”