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Seattle banks on hiring bonuses to draw new police recruits


The Seattle City Council has approved an incentives package to entice new police officers to work for the city. It will pay up to $30,000 for lateral transfers, and $7,500 for new recruits.

In the past two years, the Seattle Police Department saw a net loss of 304 police hires.

Councilmember Debra Juarez says it may not be the perfect policy to solve the department’s staffing issue, but it’s headed in the right direction.

“Today we are moving forward, walking in our purpose, hopefully, I believe, to a safe, healthy and sensible policy,” Juarez said.

Money for the bonuses will come from more than $1.5 million in unspent salaries.

Councilmember Tammy Morales was among the three dissenting votes, along with Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant. Morales says the city should be focusing its scarce resources on pressing challenges.

“And they are things that won’t be solved by the police — our homelessness crisis, our need for more affordable housing, our limited access to behavioral healthcare.”

Morales added that SPD’s budget is the one of the largest in the city’s 42 other departments — it’s four times bigger than the Office of Housing, and 36 times bigger than the Office of Economic Development.

In a statement following the bill’s passage, Mayor Bruce Harrell says the hiring incentives are just one piece of the city’s recruitment plan.

“We’re prioritizing a diverse candidate pool, simplifying the application process, hiring recruiters, and pursuing education and career advancement opportunities for future officers," Harrell said.

Harrell added that the city is focused on retaining current personnel “through a competitive economic package and commitment to officer wellness and morale.”

The bill also requires SPD to provide quarterly report on use of incentives beginning October. Incentives cannot be used for rehiring police who resigned within the past two years. An officer has to stay with the department for five years to keep the bonus.