SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council voted 7-1 Monday to approve a hiring bonus of up to $15,000 for experienced Seattle PD recruits.
The council also approved a bonus of up to $7,500 for new recruits.
Supporters of the measure, including Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best, said the bonuses are a crucial step in addressing officer shortages. The mayor's office said SPD has faced new challenges in recruiting officers over the past several years due to attrition, historically low employment, regional and national competition for officers, and hiring incentives offered by other jurisdictions in the region.
Lateral applications – applications from officers already serving in other law enforcement jurisdictions – fell by 67 percent since 2015.
“We want Seattle to hire and retain the best police officers in the country to protect our city and continue the hard, critical work of reform,” said Durkan. “Our officers show up every day to serve our community. They have met the challenge of delivering on reform and have made our city safer."
Durkan's office also attributes the officer shortage to other factors, including the fact that officers had been working without a contract since 2014. The City Council approved a new contract with the Seattle Police Officers' Guild in November, closing the wage gap for officers.
“The Seattle Police Department is a great place to work, and our compensation needs to stay competitive,” said Police Chief Carmen Best. “This $15,000 incentive will help us recruit the best police officers.”
Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, the council's lone no vote on the recruiting bonuses, said she believes the money could be better spent on affordable housing.
"I don’t think there’s any data to support that actually hiring more police officers reduces crime," Sawant said.
According to Durkan's office, the following law enforcement agencies in the Puget Sound region offer lateral hiring incentives for officers:
- Everett Police Department: $15,000 hiring incentive
- Renton Police Department: $10,000 incentive, plus 40 hours of sick leave and 40 hours of vacation when hired
- King County Sheriff's Office: Up to $5,000 in moving expenses, plus airfare and three nights' hotel for out-of-state applicants.
- Bellevue Police Department: $5,000 hiring bonus
- Bremerton Police Department: $5,000
- Tukwila Police Department: $5,000
- Bainbridge Police Department: $5,000
Officers hired from other departments participate in a shorter academy training and field training program within the SPD, which means they are deployed five months sooner than entry-level officers.