On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that she has transmitted legislation to the City Council to help recruit and retain experienced officers committed to reform to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) by providing them a hiring bonus of up to $15,000. According to Durkan, If passed by the City Council, the new hiring bonus created would ensure the SPD has more experienced law enforcement officers, increases the number of officers from communities historically underrepresented in policing, and supports potential officers who may need additional resources to relocate to the Seattle area. The full legislation can be viewed here.
“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,” said Durkan. “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.”
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.
With these new challenges to recruiting, lateral applications – applications from officers already serving in other law enforcement jurisdictions – fell by 67 percent since 2015.
SPD also faced recruiting challenges because they had been working without a contract since 2014, and were earning 2014 wages even as living costs in the region grew significantly. Under the new agreement with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild transmitted by Durkan in October 2018 and approved 8-1 by the City Council in November, SPD officers will be receiving retroactive pay for the last four years and continued cost of living increases in 2019 and 2020. These new wages will make Seattle officers the highest paid in Washington State and the fourth highest paid of the seven largest departments on the West Coast.
“The Seattle Police Department is a great place to work, and our compensation needs to stay competitive,” said Chief Carmen Best. “This $15,000 incentive will help us recruit the best police officers.”
To compete for experienced officers, several law enforcement jurisdictions in the Puget Sound provide similar lateral incentives to the ones proposed in Mayor Durkan’s legislation. The Everett Police Department offers a $15,000 hiring incentive, and the Renton Police Department provides a $10,000 incentive in addition to 40 hours of sick leave and 40 hours of vacation leave upon hire. The King County Sheriff’s Office provides up to $5,000 in paid moving expenses, plus airfare and three nights’ hotel provided for out-of-state applicants. The Bellevue Police Department, Bremerton Police Department, Tukwila Police Department, and Bainbridge Police Department all provide a $5,000 hiring incentive.