City Council approves Seattle Police hiring incentives

After months of tenuous debate, the Seattle City Council voted 7-3 to approve a slate in hiring and retention incentives for the Seattle Police Department.

The plan calls for a hiring bonus of $30,000 for a lateral transfer of an experienced officer into the department, and up to a maximum of $7,500 for a new recruit.

City employees with a referral of a lateral hire or new recruit could receive up to a $1,000 referral bonus.

Any officer receiving a hiring bonus must stay with the department at least five years, otherwise they will have to give the money back.

There is no cash retention bonus, because it would have been subject to collective bargaining with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG).

The retention aspect of the bill provides more career advancement opportunities and officer wellness programs. There is also a possibility for some officers to work four 10-hour shifts, rather than five 8-hour shifts.

Four additional staff members at SPD will be hired to focus on recruiting efforts.

The bonuses make SPD competitive with neighboring police agencies that have been offering similar bonuses for months.

"This is a positive step in the right direction as we seek to make Seattle a safe place for every neighbor, and rebuild and restore the Seattle Police Department," Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement following the vote.

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"Above all else, the key to recruiting and retaining officers is the need to change the narrative in our city. To make Seattle a place where officers feel welcome and supported, where they know we value and respect their good work," said Harrell.

Councilmember Tammy Morales said there are other city departments that are in need of recruiting help and voted no on the measure. She was joined by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant.

There have been more than 460 officer departures over the last two-and-half years. In 2017, the officer count was 1315, but by end of May it had dropped to 954.

Two years ago, a majority of the existing council voted to defund the police department, which makes Tuesday's vote controversial. Many who testified during public comment want council members who did so to maintain their pledge and vote against the incentive plan.

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SPOG is currently in contract negotiations with the Harrell Administration. A hiring bonus is not subject to collective bargaining, because it happens before a police officer completes the academy. A cash retention bonus would be subject to collective bargaining.

An officer has to stay with the department at least five years otherwise they would have to give the bonus back to the city.