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Seattle City Council will spend extra police salaries on community groups, not hiring bonuses

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The Seattle Police Department says it has a $15 million surplus in police salaries after hundreds of officers left the department in recent months.

SPD and Mayor Jenny Durkan wanted some of that money to go to hiring bonuses and retention, but the City Council voted to direct those funds to local nonprofits.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle police say more than 250 police officers have left the department over the past 17 months. Many went to other cities or retired. That's led to short staffing, slower response times to emergency calls, and millions of unspent dollars in extra salaries.

What to do with the money?

SPD wanted funds to go toward hiring and retention bonuses, overtime, and other department services. About $1.5 million was offered to non-SPD uses like Triage One and a dispatch system that will offer a non-law enforcement response to wellness checks.

Instead, Seattle City Council voted for a slightly different plan proposed by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda. The approved bill still directs about $10 million to Seattle Police, but no money for hiring bonuses. Overtime is also cut in half. The city will spend over $5 million on non-SPD uses including the Regional Peacekeepers Collective to prevent gun violence, community safety programs proposed by local nonprofits, and expanding evidence storage.

In closing remarks over zoom Monday, Herbold said there is still a lot in this bill, “for SPD, for the community service officers and crime prevention coordinators. There's funding for hiring process accelerators for both sworn officers and civilian hires."

On Monday night SPD released a statement thanking the Council for, "voting to allow the Department to retain its previously approved budget."

The statement also included a note of thanks from interim Chief Adrian Diaz to Councilmember Alex Pedersen, "for his attempt to specifically fund additional retention and hiring initiatives, even though the amendment was not passed."

Pedersen had proposed two options for police hiring bonuses, but both were voted down after a lengthy public comment period.

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