Puyallup: News

Musician, former UPS basketball player joins Puyallup police force

Kaleb Johnson, 27, joined the Puyallup Police Department in May after three years as an officer with the Chula Vista, California police department.
Kaleb Johnson, 27, joined the Puyallup Police Department in May after three years as an officer with the Chula Vista, California police department. aneedles@puyallupherald.com

The Puyallup Police Department recently welcomed to the force a new officer with a background in basketball and music.

Kaleb Johnson, 27, joined the department in May after three years as an officer with the Chula Vista, California police department.

But Johnson is a Washingtonian at heart. Born and raised in Tacoma, Johnson attended Tacoma School of the Arts, where he studied music —specifically, to be a pianist.

“I thought that’s what I was going to do,” Johnson said.

Born into a musical family, Johnson started playing piano when he was 6 years old. When he started college at the University of Puget Sound, he double-majored in both music and Spanish.

He was also a captain for the basketball team at UPS, and won the Ben Cheney Award for Most Outstanding Male Athlete for 2011-12.

With no family members in law enforcement, Johnson didn’t consider a career as an officer until he graduated.

“I didn’t really think about police work,” Johnson said. “It didn’t really cross my radar until after college.”

Knowing that becoming a professional pianist or basketball player was difficult, Johnson thought that the strengths he garnered playing basketball —leadership and physical strength — paired well with a job in law enforcement. Even his Spanish degree would come in handy for communication.

As a musician, he learned patience and self-discipline.

I would practice sometimes three or four hours a day. That self-discipline carries over into all aspects of police work.

Kaleb Johnson, Puyallup PD officer

“I would practice sometimes three or four hours a day,” Johnson said. “That self-discipline carries over into all aspects of police work.”

Johnson said he’s always admired police in general — of being able to run toward a crisis to help, rather than away.

“I always thought it was a very honorable job,” Johnson said.

When Johnson and his wife moved to Tacoma to be closer to his family, he looked at several South Sound police departments.

Puyallup’s immediately struck a chord.

“The size (of the city) really attracted me … It’s a safe community for the most part,” he said. “It was my top choice, for sure.”

The size (of the city) really attracted me … It’s a safe community for the most part. It was my top choice, for sure.

Kaleb Johnson, Puyallup PD officer

Now, Johnson is working to complete his training, learning the ins and outs of the department.

Johnson’s leadership and compassion is a great fit for the team, said Capt. Scott Engle.

“Those are qualities that are worth their weight in gold for our officers,” Engle said. “We appreciate him picking us just as much as we picked him.”

Puyallup PD normally hires around two to three officers every year.

“We tend to attract a lot of really great, bright people,” Engle said. “We’re a strong department because of the people that we hire.”

Allison Needles: 253-256-7043, @herald_allison

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