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caption: Police officers walk in front of Zara's ahead of a peaceful protest march on Monday, June 1, 2020, beginning at Westlake Park in Seattle.
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Police officers walk in front of Zara's ahead of a peaceful protest march on Monday, June 1, 2020, beginning at Westlake Park in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle officers apply elsewhere as city leaders consider cutting police department in half

Dozens of Seattle Police officers have applied to jobs in other police agencies, according to police departments in Everett, Federal Way, Kent, and Renton.

The reason these officers have given to the other departments is that they worry they will be laid off if the department budget is significantly cut, or "defunded."

Thirty police officers from Seattle have applied at the Everett Police Department, according to their spokesperson Aaron Snell.

Snell didn't know where the prospective police transfers were at in the application process. Additionally, some Seattle officers have checked in about jobs more informally.

Unlike in Seattle, where there remains the potential for the city to cut the police department’s funding in half, Everett city leaders, prior to the pandemic, discussed expanding their police force to have a more visible police presence.

And while Seattle officers are some of the highest paid in the nation — with step 1 sworn officers earning $83,640 annually, before overtime — other police departments offer bonuses to lateral officers who are hired there. A City of Everett lateral officer job posting advertises a sign-on bonus up to $20,000.

In Renton, 10 Seattle officers have applied for jobs in the last two months. The protests for racial justice in Seattle, and rallying cries to dismantle the police, started the weekend of May 29.

In Federal Way, police department officials are in the process of backgrounding five or six Seattle officers who are leaving Seattle law enforcement, said Commander Kurt Schwan.

“The cops are worried about a 50 percent reduction and think that would apply to officers with up to 10 years experience,” Schwan said. “So they're applying for jobs elsewhere because they're worried about losing their jobs.”

The Kent Police Department had inquires coming in from Seattle Police following the first weekend the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone was established, on June 8, and Seattle officers left the East Precinct.

About 12 officers made informal inquiries about working in Kent; about six Seattle officers have officially applied for jobs there, said Commander Robert Hollis.

Most applicants have five years of experience or less — those most at risk of losing their jobs if the Seattle Police Department were to get a cut in funding, Hollis said.

“There are a lot of people in our industry, who think, can we ride this out, depending on where I’m at in my career,” he said.

Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan said he has heard from officers who have considered relocation. Solan said the lack of police support from elected leaders is the number one cause.

“If our elected officials were supportive several weeks ago and publicly applauded our officers, why are they changing their opinion?” Solan said.

Seattle city leaders are considering if they should cut the Seattle Police budget in half — as protesters and most Seattle city councilmembers have vocally supported the move to "defund the police."

The idea is to cut funding for officer salaries, and some other police department expenses, and relocate those dollars into community targeted social and health services.

A cut in half to Seattle's police budget means a reduction of about $204 million from the $409 million budget.

The Seattle City Council could make cuts as part of its budget re-balancing, which is needed because of the unforeseen expenses the Covid-19 pandemic created. They will be voting on their budget re-balancing plan on Aug. 3.

If you are a Seattle police officer who is making plans to leave the Seattle Police Department, please reach out if you would like to share why. Email hiruko@kuow.org.