Facing competition from departments across the country, Seattle might begin offering hiring bonuses up to $15,000 to attract new police officers.
“We have a responsibility to ensure we can hire and retain the best police officers in the country while continuing the important work of reform,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said about the proposal. “Our officers have already shown they can meet the challenge of delivering on reform, and we need to support them. I look forward to Council supporting this plan so that under Chief Best’s leadership we can continue to advance public safety and build the best community-based police department in America.”
The department has funding for 1,467 full-time positions in 2019, with 1,398 officers now working, the Seattle Times reports citing city figures.
“In recent years, SPD has faced new challenges in recruiting officers due to attrition, historically low employment, regional and national competition for officers, and hiring incentives offered by other jurisdictions in the region,” the announcement of the proposed legislation reads.
The city says it is falling behind other areas of the country — SPD applications from officers already serving in other law enforcement jurisdictions have fallen by 67% since 2015.
Some of that can be attributed to the long, drawn out negotiations on a new contract that was finally nailed down late last year. But with the new deal and a new leader in Chief Carmen Best, some of the department’s organizational struggles should hopefully be improved.
The police union was not exactly supportive of the announcement, saying SPD is “hemorrhaging officers” due to “unreasonable special interest policies.”
According to the mayor’s office, “several law enforcement jurisdictions in the Puget Sound provide similar lateral incentives” including Everett which also offers a $15,000 hiring incentive, and the Renton Police Department, which provides a $10,000 incentive in addition to 40 hours of sick leave and 40 hours of vacation leave upon hire.
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