Five new officers joined the ranks of the Kennewick Police Department on Monday, but they want more.
The police agencies in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick are looking for 14 more men and women.
“If a person wants to serve their community and make it the world a better place, this is where you can do it,” said Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin.
The departments are looking to fill vacancies after retirements and growing police department budgets. Kennewick wants to hire seven more, Pasco needs five and Richland is looking for two more.
“We had quite a number of retirements last year,” said Lattin. “We average 3.5 per year.”
And Kennewick decided to add 12 new officers — four a year since 2015 — after Benton County voters approved a public safety tax that added three cents of sales tax to every $10 purchase.
In all, the cities and county had estimated they would hire as many as 30 law enforcement officers with the tax.
A lot of people have applied for the positions, which pay an average annual salary in the Tri-Cities of $70,000, plus medical insurance and retirement packages.
It’s not just meeting the criteria, it’s having the drive and desire to be a police officer.
Richland Capt. Mike Cobb
“It’s pretty good wages,” Lattin said. “They must be willing to sacrifice your life. It’s why we pay good money. Most people are not willing to do that.”
The challenge has come in finding good recruits who can pass the tests and background checks.
“You get about an 80 percent washout rate,” said Pasco police Sgt. Scott Warren. “Out of the last 30, we hired two. We want to hire high-quality employees.”
Applicants must be at least 21, a U.S. citizen with no felony convictions, have 20/20 vision even with glasses or contacts, and a good driving record.
“Everybody’s is struggling to find the right applicants,” said Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb. “There are a lot of job openings. It is a pretty competitive job market.”
Everybody’s is struggling to find the right applicants. There are a lot of job openings. It is a pretty competitive job market.
Richland Capt. Mike Cobb
“You don’t have to be squeaky clean,” Warren said. “(Chief Bob Metzger) is looking for someone who can be honest about their background. Everybody errs. The lengthy vetting process helps us to find the best-qualified candidates.”
After passing the tests, Pasco holds an oral board for the candidate to be questioned, then an integrity interview, psychological exam, polygraph and if all are passed the department spends about 60 to 80 hours conducting a background check.
“It’s not just meeting the criteria, it’s having the drive and desire to be a police officer,” said Cobb.
Those who make it that far then face the training.
“If the applicant stays true and goes through the process … then there are the 5 1/2 months in the academy, and if they pass that then a 16-week training program before they are on the streets on their own,” said Warren.
It should be fun to come to work, and it really is for us.
Kennewick Sgt. Ken Lattin
For many, it’s worth the long process.
“It should be fun to come to work, and it really is for us,” Lattin said. “It’s a good place.”
“Bottom line is whether you serve your nation by being in the military or serve your community by being a police officer, you are serving your community in another way,” Cobb said. “We here in the Tri-Cities enjoy a phenomenal amount of support.”
To apply to be a police officer, each city has listings on their website or you can go to the website of the testing companies.