SEATTLE -- The Seattle Police Department continues to promote lieutenants to the rank of captain, despite the fact that it now has seven more captains than are budgeted for.
In the past two weeks alone, Chief Kathleen O’Toole has promoted two more captains, bringing the total number to 27. There are only 20 captain positions allotted in the department’s budget.
At an average of $170,000 a year, salaries for the extra captains amount to more than $1.1 million dollars annually.
“The chief was brought in for reform. She’s making organizational changes,” said the department’s chief operating officer, Mike Wagers.
Wagers said O’Toole saw lieutenants up for promotion who she thought would make good captains and help move the department forward. While budgeted captain positions were full, he said the department needed “highly motivated captains in the spots that we need them to carry out reforms, to engage the community, and reduce crime.”
“We’ll promote and continue to promote people who we think can lead this department into the future,” he said.
Wagers' comments suggest that there are certain captains on the department who don’t share the new leadership’s vision for reform, but state and civil service laws prevent them from simply being replaced by new captains to keep the number at 20.
Capt. Mike Edwards, president of the union that represents captains and lieutenants, said each captain on the department has decades of service to the city and should be given meaningful work.
Edwards said he believes the department needs the extra captains, but he is against putting people into positions that aren’t budgeted for.
“The problem is that if you don’t have the budget for it, then the position could, in fact, go away,” said Edwards, who heads the Seattle Police Management Association. “And that’s disconcerting. If you’re one of those captains that is the extra captain, then that certainly is in the back of your mind.”
The excess number of captains has left at least two “double pocketed” into the same position. Captains Ronald Mochizuki and Michael Nolan are both assigned to traffic. Their combined salaries add up to $352,328 a year. While Mochizuki is on extended leave for a personal matter, it is unclear where he will go when he returns.
There are also several captains currently assigned to work on special projects who are overseeing just a few people, or no one at all.
Asked if each one of the department’s 27 captains was doing meaningful work that best utilizes their experience, Edwards said he wasn’t sure.
“I can’t answer that question,” he said. “That’s something that we don’t know.”
“We certainly hope that each and every captain, each and every lieutenant, every member of this department is working hard to serve the citizens of Seattle, to earn their salary, and to earn the trust of the citizens to move the department forward,” Wagers said.
Edwards said the department is currently undergoing a review of staffing levels, and he’s hopeful it will result in official, budgeted increases across the board – from officers all the way up.
“Thankfully the chief has seen this need and is adding to all the supervisory ranks: Sergeant, lieutenant, and captains,” Edwards said. “Just without the budget.”
To see a list of the captains and their salaries, click the link below: