(The Center Square) – Members of Seattle City Council are considering legislation giving the Seattle Police Department more hiring incentives as the city faces officer shortages and rising crime.
The legislation includes using anticipated 2022 salary and benefit savings to fund staffing incentives for uniformed police officers. It also authorizes Mayor Bruce Harrell to hire a new SPD recruiter and allocates up to $650,000 to cover relocation expenses for recruits coming from outside Seattle.
Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson co-sponsored the bill. She also offered a “friendly” amendment to increase SPD’s recruitment advertising and outreach budget by $350,000.
In the Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting Tuesday, Councilmember Nelson defended the proposed $650,000 to recruit more officers to Seattle saying that the rise in crime in the city calls for desperate actions.
“We can disagree over what would be a better use for this money but…people are dying,” Nelson said in the meeting. “We don’t have enough officers to respond quickly to emergencies.”
Councilmember Lisa Herbold is the other co-sponsor of this legislation. Herbold believes that hiring incentives in general can help recruit for jobs that are more difficult to find workers for.
“My collaboration with the Mayor’s office on this topic has been focused on doing something to address recruitment issues now, not just for hiring police officers, but including critical but hard-to-fill city jobs like carpenters, truck drivers, and civil engineers,” Herbold said in statement. “A report released by the Executive states that traditional hiring bonuses have a ‘limited impact on retention’ and have ‘potential inherent drawback and equity issues for both the employer and employees.’”
Seattle City Council’s 2022 budget for SPD allocated enough money to hire 125 new officers, but they have only been able to hire 13 so far this year. This trend will leave a projected $4.1 million in unspent funds by the end of the year, according to Councilmember Nelson.
Mayor Harrell is supporting Herbold and Nelson’s legislation but doesn’t think incentives are the only solution necessary to get SPD staffing levels back to normal.
“Both Councilmembers Nelson and Herbold understand and appreciate that we need to gain more dedicated and compassionate public servants following considerable attrition over the last few years. We know that reaching national best practice staffing levels for SPD can’t be achieved solely with incentives,” Harrell said. “Progress requires a holistic effort rooted in our shared commitment to make this a place where officers feel welcome and supported – and where all neighbors feel safe. I hope that between these two Councilmembers’ efforts, and following a robust policy debate, we can work together toward what we’re all striving for: A safe and healthy Seattle.”
The legislation passed out of the Public Safety and Human Services Tuesday on a vote of four to one, with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda voting against. It will now go to the full council on May 24 for another vote.
Nelson said she put forward this resolution because of the rising crime rates and severe staffing shortages causing a public safety crisis.
“Let me be clear, this is just the beginning. I’m proud to have led on this issue and I will continue to fight for a safer and more livable city – for everyone.” Nelson said in a statement following the committee vote.