Seattle needs to jump into the nationwide competition for experienced police officers, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Thursday in proposing a hiring bonus of up to $15,000 to lure recruits from other departments.

“We have a responsibility to ensure we can hire and retain the best police officers in the country while continuing the important work of reform,” Durkan said in a statement, referring to legislation submitted to the City Council and the department’s efforts to address excessive force and biased policing under a federal-consent decree.

Seattle has lost so-called lateral transfers to other police departments offering bonuses. Durkan’s proposal comes at a time when low unemployment and retirements of baby-boom officers are driving competition for recruits regionally and nationally.

In addition, Seattle fell behind in salaries during prolonged negotiations over a new 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 six-year agreement, retroactive to 2015, that made Seattle officers the highest paid in the state.

Police Chief Carmen Best said in the statement that the bonuses will help recruit top candidates. 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, the statement 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 the statement.

Durkan’s offer, which requires City Council approval, would make the Seattle police-hiring bonus among the highest in the Puget Sound. Bellevue offers officers with two years of experience a $16,000 bonus.

Everett Police Department offers a $15,000 hiring incentive, while Renton Police Department provides a $10,000 incentive, along with 40 hours of sick leave and 40 hours of vacation leave at the time of hiring, the statement said.

The King County Sheriff’s Office provides up to $5,000 in paid moving expenses, plus airfare and three nights’ hotel provided for out-of-state applicants. Police departments in Bremerton, Tukwila and Bainbridge all provide a $5,000 hiring incentive.


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