Communication and education top priorities for Kirkland Police Officer Jon Ishmael

When Jon Ishmael was in the fourth grade, a bike-safety class changed his life and, in turn, the lives of Kirkland residents.

“I was going to school in Anacortes and I took the class from a (police) officer,” said Ishmael, who is 27. “I just remember thinking what a great role model he was, a leader, and I respected what he did as a profession … I told myself from that day I was going to grow up and become a police officer.”

But that experience also paved the way for Ishmael’s path with the Kirkland Police Department. He is now the City of Kirkland’s only Neighborhood Resource Officer (NRO).

And the position is important to the force as Ishmael is the conduit between the Kirkland community and the department.

“I attend as many if not all of the neighborhood meetings,” said Ishmael. “Sometimes I am there just to listen and be there for individual questions. Sometimes they will let me know, ‘hey, this is going on in our community and we want information on it and we want to know what the Kirkland Police Department is doing.’”

Ishmael said that a lot of his job is education.

“There is a lot that goes on behind closed doors that just isn’t seen by the public and it can be perceived by the public that the police just aren’t doing anything,” he said. “I am able to take to them statistics, what we are using and let them know the things they may not be seeing.”

Ishmael attempts to also work with Kirkland residents when they suspect crimes are happening in their neighborhoods.

“A lot of it is developing relationships with people,” said Ishmael. “Many people know how to get a hold of Jon or Officer Ishmael and bring questions and bring information. When you call 911 you are probably going to get a different officer every time … but I am a constant for a lot of people and they will come to me when it is a non-emergency situation.”

When residents in the Highlands neighborhood were concerned about the occupants of a rental house this past summer, they called on Ishmael.

Residents called a community meeting and Ishmael spoke with them about the issue, which was also loosely connected to a string of burglaries.

“They were providing license plates and time of activity,” said Ishmael. “A neighbor opened up their home and let us do surveillance from one of their bedrooms for a couple of nights. It was a community that had recognized something that was out of place and there was activity that was not normal with the neighborhood.”

Ishmael said that through the information received from neighbors, the police and code enforcement were able to get the renters evicted. An electrical issue and visitors late at night led police to believe there was drug sales out of the home.

“I can’t say specifically that the burglaries were associated with that house, cause we hadn’t developed probable cause to arrest anyone,” he said. “It is a wait-and-see to see if the crime goes down and only time will tell. But for the time being those neighbors feel better about the situation.”

Ishmael community presence also allows residents to see that police officers are real people.

“I just think that there is a need for somebody in this position so that the community does see what we are doing. We are human, we are not robots, we make mistakes,” said Ishmael. “But at the same time we can sit down and have a conversation.”

Ishmael said that budget cuts have changed his position in many ways. The NRO falls into the Community Services Division of the police department that in the past staffed a sergeant, school resource officer, NRO and a part-time crime prevention officer.

“The division has been cut so the only people in it are myself and the school resource officer,” said Ishmael. “So essentially my duties are community relations.”

Some of the programs that Ishmael is responsible for are the Citizens Academy, the Explorer Program, helping to set up block watch programs and public information.

“It has gone from a few specialty things to a very large umbrella of hats that are worn by the resource officer,” said Ishmael.

Annexation is going to be a big issue for Ishmael and community relations.

“We are doing as much work as we can to prepare for the annexation,” he said. “There will be a lot of people in the annexation area with questions. They will be receiving services they are not used to and my goal is to do a lot of listening and educating.”

He realizes the annexation vote was close and not all residents favor the KPD.

“It still rings through my mind the ‘annexation yes’ signs that were getting vandalized with people taking their time to write ‘The Kirkland police are the criminals,’” he said.

Though he admits that the KPD cannot please everyone.

“We do write speeding tickets,” he laughs.

To contact Officer Jon Ishmael email or call 425-587-3451.