Analyst's work pays off for Kent’s police force

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Debra LeRoy sits in the game room at the Kent Parks Community Center Jan. 28.

Debra LeRoy sits in the game room at the Kent Parks Community Center Jan. 28.

Without the hard work of Debra LeRoy, the Kent Police Department could not have started its Weed and Seed program that focuses on high-crime areas on the East Hill.

In fact, numerous Kent Police programs exist because of LeRoy, a research and development analyst for the police department.

“Debra epitomizes diligent and hard work on behalf of the taxpayers every day,” Kent Police Chief Steve Strachan said. “She’s always looking for grant opportunities to leverage dollars for better services.”

LeRoy, who started work for the city in 1987 as a police records specialist, now spends much of her time as a grant writer. She has brought in at least $4 million in grants and programs to the city in the last several years, Strachan said.

“She never says why we can’t do this, but says ‘let’s find a way to get this done,’” Strachan said. “It’s not just finding grants. But she administers the grants and monitors the programs.”

Strachan presented LeRoy with the Chief’s Award for Distinguished Service at a City Council meeting last fall because of her exemplary level of work over several years.

“The Weed and Seed program we could not have started without your hard work,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Albertson told LeRoy at the meeting.

To get federal money for the Weed and Seed program, the city first needed to demonstrate that the East Hill corridor from Southeast 240th Street to Southeast 277th Street and from 94th Avenue South to 116th Avenue South suffered from violent crimes, drug abuse and gang activity.

Then the city formed a Weed and Seed steering committee with representatives from neighborhoods, churches and businesses in order to apply for a grant from the federal Department of Justice. The city also needed a community center and worked out an agreement with the Kent School District to open a youth center at the Kent Phoenix Academy.

“I like the variety and I really enjoy working with stakeholders to put together a project and see it succeed,” LeRoy said during an interview this week at her desk at the police station. “I’ve found my niche here. I enjoy serving the public.”

Other police programs that received funds through LeRoy’s help include the annual youth conference Game of Life; liquor-control compliance checks at local businesses; bicycle patrols; and substance-abuse treatment programs at the city jail.

Councilman Ron Harmon said he enjoys it every time he sees LeRoy at a city Public Safety committee meeting.

“It’s a thrill whenever you come to a public safety meeting because when you show up I know there’s money coming in,” Harmon told LeRoy after she received the chief’s award.

LeRoy, who grew up in Renton, joined the Kent Police as a records specialist after a property-management job ended. She worked about five years as a records specialist and five years as a records supervisor before taking on her current job in 1998.

LeRoy earned a business administration degree from the University of Washington and then went on to a master’s degree in public administration from Seattle University. She focused on written communication skills at the UW and took a grant-writing class at Seattle University.

She also keeps her grant-writing skills sharp by attending workshops regularly.

As critical as it has been to the operations of her department, the grant-writing element of her job didn’t happen overnight. Rather, LeRoy gradually learned the ropes of how to successfully apply for government funding, and to represent her department’s projects to outside agencies for assistance.

“It was kind of trial and error at first,” she admitted.

Outside of work, LeRoy lives in Renton with her husband, Ken LeRoy, who works for Foss Tug in Seattle. They have been married 27 years. They own a 34-foot yacht and enjoy trips to the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland Pacific coast of British Columbia.

Once LeRoy retires from the police department, she plans to run for the Renton City Council.

“I want to stay involved in local city government,” LeRoy said.

LeRoy also has served several two-year terms as president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2617 union that represents nearly 150 city of Kent employees. Her most recent term ended in December. She said she does not plan to be president again.

Meanwhile, LeRoy stays plenty busy trying to find more grant money for her department.

“It’s a lot of work, but she doesn’t view it as just a job,” Strachan said. “She’s truly involved and connected to programs such as the Weed and Seed program as an alternative to kids to help keep them out of gangs.”


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