Seattle mayor, 2 councilmembers share unified approach in efforts to pass hiring incentives for SPD

Seattle mayor Bruce Harrell and Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Sara Nelson have announced a "unified approach" in the next steps in their efforts to pass legislation that would allow hiring incentives for Seattle police officers. 

The alignment comes ahead of the city council's Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting happening on May 10. 

Herbold, the chair of the Public Safety & Human Services, drafted an ordinance that would ask the City’s Department of Human Resources to develop a policy to provide "moving relocation benefits for a wider array of citywide job positions that are challenging to hire, with prioritization given to police officers." 

Under Herbold's ordinance, SPD would be granted access to $650,000 in salary savings to pay for relocation benefits for SPD new hires, and to hire a recruiter to attract qualified candidates. Nelson offered an amendment to Herbold's ordinance, which would increase SPD's recruitment advertising and outreach budget by $350,000, according to a press release.

However, the press release sent out by the mayor's office did not discuss particulars for incentives or what those would be, just that funding is being discussed for possible implementation. 

'We need to level the playing field'; Seattle City Council debates hiring bonuses for city staff outside SPD

Seattle Police have lost around 26% of their officers since the start of 2020, but recruiters and the City Council agree that their retention issue extends beyond just police officers—it's affecting all the city's departments.

"I’d like to commend both Councilmember Herbold and Councilmember Nelson for their dedicated focus on improving public safety in our community. Clearly, there is passion behind our collective desire for an appropriately staffed police department, a trusted system for accountability, and new investments in alternatives to traditional police response for certain instances. I am committed to pursuing these priorities with Councilmembers and the community," said Harrell. "These two thoughtful proposals complement one another. As my administration continues to develop a comprehensive plan to restore police staffing, this is a reminder that when we work together and unite around shared values and common purpose, we develop better ideas that put us on a path toward better results."

Harrell said he will present a comprehensive recruitment strategy before the summer. 

Since January 2020, 401 officers (nearly 30% of sworn officers on the force), have separated from the department. Since then, the department has hired 145 officers, resulting in a net loss of 256 officers.  So far in 2022, 44 officers have left and only 13 have been hired.

The city no longer offers a hiring bonus and never offered a retention bonus, the opposite of what neighboring cities and King County are doing.

"Most cities, if not all cities in our region, do have this, and it’s been said we need to level the playing field for offering our officers this. Otherwise, we are going to lose them to other departments," Nelson said in April. 

The range of bonus pay for a lateral move in our region ranges from $15,000 to $30,000. In Seattle, that move is $0.