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Mayor Jenny Durkan Applauds City Council’s Passage of Her Legislation to Help Recruit and Retain Experienced, Diverse Police Officers with Hiring Bonus

With Growing National and Regional Competition for Officers, New Lateral Hiring Incentive Would Help Recruit Experienced Candidates Who Are Committed to Reform with Up to $15,000 Incentive

SEATTLE (March 4, 2019) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan applauded the City Council’s 7-1 vote this afternoon to pass her legislation 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.

The new hiring bonus created will help 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 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 Mayor 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. Now that this plan can be put into place, under Chief Best’s leadership we can continue to advance public safety and continue to build the best community-based police department in our country.”

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 Mayor Durkan in October 2018 and approved 8-1 by the City Council in November, the pay gap has been closed, and now we can close the incentive pay gap.

“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.”

The Seattle City Council voted to expand the legislation with several changes, including extending the incentive to new recruits with bonuses up to $7,500 and adding additional reporting and accountability measures to monitor and ensure the program’s effectiveness.

“From the beginning, it was a priority of mine to extend a $7,500 incentive bonus to new recruits, as well the lateral hire bonus. New recruits are more likely to come from diverse communities and help the department achieve its community policing strategy and vision,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González. “I’ve consistently heard from communities throughout Seattle that they want more neighborhood-based police officers walking their streets. Providing these incentives to recruits and officers moving laterally from other jurisdictions will make a valuable contribution to our police department’s recruiting efforts.”

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.

Because officers hired from other departments participate in a shorter academy training and field training program within the SPD, they are deployed five months sooner than entry-level officers, resulting in salary savings for the department.