Mayor Durkan Uses Executive Authority to Authorize Lateral Hiring Bonuses for Seattle Police Officers and 911 Dispatch

SEATTLE (October 29, 2021) – To help address critical ongoing staffing challenges in 911 Dispatch and the Seattle Police Department in Seattle, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan used her executive authority to authorize a hiring bonus to help with the recruitment of experienced officers and staff to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC). Her emergency order would allow for hiring incentives within the current 2021 budget authority by providing a hiring bonus of up to $25,000 for lateral hires and $10,000 for new hires, depending on levels of experience and training.

“When residents call 911, they expect an officer to show up – and when they call the 911 emergency line, they expect that someone will answer the phone. Hiring, recruiting and training takes months, and we need to act now to ensure we can have trained and deployable staff. Seattle cannot keep waiting  to address the real public safety officer hiring and retention crisis we are experiencing in Seattle right now,” said Mayor Durkan.

Over the past two years, more than 250 officers have left the Seattle Police Department, resulting in rising response times and reducing SPD’s capacity by well over 300,000 service hours. Despite efforts by Mayor and SPD Chief Diaz to restore funding to the department and reinstate hiring bonuses, Council has rejected these proposals. Meanwhile, competition for officers has increased in the region and nationwide and Seattle has seen a significant rise in gun violence over the past year, with a 76% year-to-date rise in shots fired and a 29% increase in non-fatal shootings compared to 2020. Available resources are being directed toward ensuring that answering 9-1-1 calls and officer safety remain the highest priority.

The Seattle City Council previously did not consider the Mayor’s proposed ordinance transmitted in July 2021 that would have restored funding to the Seattle Police Department and reinstated 2019 Council Approved hiring incentives for the department. Earlier this week, the Council Budget Committee heard arguments for removing hiring incentives from the Mayor’s 2022 proposed budget, which also includes funding for 125 new officers. Instead of waiting for Council action in the 2022 budget, this Emergency Order will authorize this spending immediately, in an effort to address immediate and critical public safety staffing shortages.

“The Seattle Police Department is thankful Mayor Durkan recognizes our current staffing crisis and that she has taken the necessary step to ensure we can recruit the best and brightest new officers,” Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said. “Hiring is a challenge for every law enforcement agency right now, and most are offering incentives to attract new members. These new hiring bonuses will level the competitive playing field and will allow the SPD to attract the highest caliber employees we need to protect and serve all people of Seattle.”

At the same time, the CSCC pre-existing staffing shortage has resulted in a 40% increase in overtime spending year to date as compared to last year, as all available resources are directed at maintaining 911 call answer performance times. With the cumulative addition of vaccine mandate staffing losses, shortfalls are now critical and starting Friday, October 29, residents calling the City’s non-emergency phone number may reach a pre-recorded message during busy times to ensure 911 calls are prioritized. This recorded message will direct callers to alternative options to help them address the purpose of their call. This decision allows the 911 Center to concentrate available employees to answer 911 emergency calls and dispatch officers to respond to public safety incidents.

“The Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC – Seattle 911) feels that these hiring bonuses may have a profound impact and give the city a significant leg up while fighting the national trend of difficulties in recruiting and hiring 911 call takers and dispatchers,” said Interim Director of the CSCC Chris Lombard.

Available resources are being directed toward ensuring that answering 911 calls and officer safety remain the highest priority.

Residents wishing to file a non-emergency police report are urged to do so online at http://www.seattle.gov/police/need-help/online-reporting.