Update: July 26, 2021, 11:45 p.m. Kennewick Police Department reports that pepperball guns are on order.
Of the Tri-Cities, only the City of Kennewick opposed police reform in the last Washington State Legislative Session. Reform legislation passed and apparently, the Kennewick Police Departments (KPD) hasn’t come to terms with that.
A media release on July 27 about officers’ response to a disturbance at 1001 W. 4th Ave. in Kennewick describes how Kennewick officers successfully apprehended a woman throwing dishes and rocks and armed with scissors and kitchen knives which she used to slash their tires.
The successful conclusion of the event, the 28-year-old in custody and injury only to two police cars, didn’t stop Kennewick police from complaining about police reforms. According to the media release, H.B. 1054 prohibits the KPD from using their 37mm impact baton because it is larger than .50 caliber. They had to call in the Pasco Police with their pepperball gun to help.
Through public record requests earlier this year, the Observer obtained the emails from each of the Tri-Cities between city officials and staff and their Olympia lobbyists. In an email on January 12, 2021, Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who also serves as a Kennewick Assistant City Manager, opposed the reform bill H.B. 1054. and instructed the city lobbyists, Tom McBride and Ben Buchholz, to oppose it as the city’s representatives in Olympia.
When the Observer emailed the members of the Kennewick City Council to ask if the council had discussed a position on the police reform, only two wrote back. Both Councilmember Jim Millbauer and Councilmember Chuck Torrelli pointed to the discussion at the July 14, 2020, Kennewick City Council meeting.
At that time the council seemed to accept Hohenberg’s position supporting choke holds and other methods prohibited in H.B. 1054. Hohenberg said, “Police Officers have to have the option or we’ll have more dead officers.”
Pasco took the opposite approach. Before the last legislative session, Pasco City Council formally adopted this position: “Pasco encourages [their emphasis] the state to enact reforms to our state’s criminal justice system. Pasco has taken bold steps to reform policing locally and calls on the state to follow suit.”
According to Interim City Manager Jon Amundson, “The City of Richland supported the AWC (Association of Washington Cities) in their position on behalf of cities, ‘support local control over city law enforcement to meet the needs of each community while recognizing the need for certain statewide reforms.’”
No word on whether KPD plans to buy a peppergun.