The next time a Kennewick Police Department officer sees a cold child in need of a coat or a traveler stranded by a breakdown, they will have a ready source of money to help out.
The department has launched a new Kennewick Police Community Care Fund with $13,000 donated by Kennewick businesses and individuals to start the new program, police Chief Ken Hohenberg announced Monday.
The program was born out of a Feb. 6 breakfast conversation among Hohenberg and two friends — Dave Retter, the owner of the Kennewick Windermere franchise, and Jim Spracklen, who once worked for the Kennewick police and now works for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s national security directorate.
Spracklen’s nephew, a San Diego businessman, had seen a police officer buy a child lunch and thought there should be a program to allow officers to offer immediate help. The officer was killed a few days later in the line of duty.
“It was not my idea, but I thought it was so great that we needed to put legs on it,” Spracklen said.
Until now, Kennewick police have reached into their own pockets to help those in need.
Officer Mike Bowe took a child to Big 5 and bought him a new pair of shoes after the child was hit by a car crossing a street, Hohenberg said. Police needed the shoes that had been knocked off him as evidence, and the boy’s family did not have money for another pair.
“That happens quite frequently where officers will pay for things,” Hohenberg said. “We could be in an apartment where there is a baby that does not have a crib and we can give the family a crib. There are a lot of immediate needs that come to my mind.”
The new fund is set up through the Kennewick Police Foundation, which accepts money for projects such as DARE, or Drug Abuse Resistance Education, for school children and the canine police program.
The fund has few restrictions on it.
Patrol supervisors will have credit cards from the foundation to lend out to officers — including patrol officers, school resource officers and detectives — who see a person with an immediate need.
“We want police officers to know in their heart if it is the right thing to do, they can go to their supervisor,” Hohenberg said. “We are just trying to make sure the police officers have the ability to do the right thing at the right time.”
Some businesses are donating or discounting services to help police with common needs like a hot meal, warm clothing, a night’s lodging or a tow.
Officers sometimes see travelers who have run out of gas or are stranded by mechanical problems. The example Hohenberg gave was a traveler heading to Spokane to see a dying relative who broke down in Kennewick.
“We see a lot of negativity around the state, around the country, when it comes to situations involving police and the use of force and other circumstances,” Hohenberg said. “Really, the core mission of the police department is to help people. I think in Kennewick we see that time and time again.”
The police department already does a good job connecting people to services through calls to 211. But the new fund will allow officers to provide immediate help to people with an immediate need, he said.
He’s hoping the program will spread to other police departments.
Retter helped organize the fundraising. “All the chief had to do was ask and all these people stepped forward,” he said.
Donors to the program’s fund include Apollo Heating and Air; Bunch Finnigan; Canyon Lakes; Clearwater Dental; Community First Bank; Dick and Diane Hoch; Fast Signs; Henderson and Associates; Innovative Mortgage; Jim and Carol Spracklen; Ken and Trish Hohenberg; Kennewick Mayor Steve and Anita Young; Perfection Glass; Perfection Tire; PS Media; The Living Room Church; Toyota of Tri-Cities; Washington Hardware; and Windermere Real Estate.
Businesses that police can call for donated services include Casaday Beeline Service for towing; Clover Island Inn for accommodations; Hills Restaurant for meals; Ranch and Home for clothing; and Toyota of Tri-Cities for automotive repair.
Donations may be sent to the program at Kennewick Police Foundation, 8524 W. Gage Blvd. A-1, PO Box 311 Kennewick, WA 99336. Mark them for the Community Care Fund. They also may be made online at www.kpdfoundation.org.