Steve Miletich The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council’s public safety committee on Wednesday unanimously approved Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal to offer a hiring bonus of up to $15,000 to attract trained officers to the city’s Police Department, clearing the way for full council approval.

It also amended the bill to offer up to a $7,500 hiring bonus to new recruits.

The measure will go to the full nine-member council, subject to further discussions between Committee Chair M. Lorena González and the mayor’s office on legal language that would ensure hires make a commitment to the department, such as by signing a contract.

Durkan proposed the incentive program last month, saying Seattle needs to jump into the nationwide competition for experienced police officers. Her plan came at a time when historically low unemployment and retirements of baby boomer officers, combined with high housing costs and a negative image of policing nationwide, are said to be driving competition for recruits regionally and nationally.

González was joined by council members Teresa Mosqueda and Rob Johnson in a vote on the amended bill, which also contains provisions for evaluating the program.

González said she hoped to present a final bill to a meeting of the full council on Monday, but no later than March 11. The council is expected to pass the measure because committee recommendations are almost always adopted by the council.

Seattle has lost so-called transfers to other police departments offering bonuses.

In addition, Seattle fell behind in salaries during prolonged negotiations over a contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild. Officers worked since the end of 2014 without a contract until November, when the City Council ratified a deal that made them the highest paid in the state.

Bonuses will help recruit top candidates, Police Chief Carmen Best has said. The department has funding for 1,467 full-time positions in 2019, with 1,398 officers now working, according to city figures.

The money also will help attract officers from communities historically underrepresented in policing and provide financial support for moving costs, Best said.

Officers hired from other departments spend less time in academy and field training, allowing them to be deployed five months sooner than entry-level officers with salary savings for the department, according to Best.

If enacted, the Seattle police-hiring bonus would be among the highest in the Puget Sound. Bellevue offers officers with two years of experience a $16,000 bonus.


©2019 The Seattle Times

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