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Bellevue police aggressively recruiting officers amid staffing shortage

Bellevue police officer Craig Hanaumi at the Bellevue Skate Park. Hanaumi is on BPD's recruitment team for new officers. (Photo by Rachel Belle)

Seattle is not the only Western Washington city struggling to staff its police department. Bellevue police are aggressively seeking new recruits as the department faces a staffing shortage of its own.

“A lot of departments are facing staffing shortages,” said Bellevue Police Officer Seth Tyler, a member of the Bellevue Police Department’s recruitment team.

He notes that there are a range of factors for that. For example, the economy is booming locally with high-paying jobs in other fields.

“And there’s just not as many people who want to be in law enforcement now,” he said. “So we have a smaller pool to choose from and we are competing with larger departments like Seattle.”

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The Bellevue Police Department is short by 17 positions, Tyler said. Taking into consideration people in the police academy, or waiting to go to the academy, BPD is looking at 40 vacant positions.

“It’s a pretty significant number,” Tyler said. “It’s the highest vacancy rate we’ve had for quite a while and we want to get that number down.”

While it’s not their primary target, the department has made an effort to reach out to the fitness and martial arts community, according to the Bellevue Reporter. Tyler says that anyone is welcome, whether they are lateral transfers from other departments, or entry-level applicants with no experience in law enforcement.

“Bellevue is a very diverse city — actually minority/majority city — so if you speak a foreign language, or you were born outside the United States and have your citizenship, if you come from a family that spoke a language other than English as a first language, we want to hear from you,” Tyler said. “We are looking for folks from all walks of life – men, women, we really are looking for any qualified applicants.”

Recruiting for BPD is primarily being done through a special website with information on qualifications, pay, and the city. There is no closing date for hiring. Applicants must have a high school diploma. Bellevue has also modified its marijuana rule – applicants can’t have used marijuana within one year (it used to be three years). Certain criminal records will disqualify a candidate, but recruiters still encourage people to look into the opportunity.

RELATED: Seattle faces rumors of mass exodus of officers

Tyler promotes that Bellevue is growing, with light rail coming to town and large companies moving their headquarters there, such as REI. He hypes the department’s benefits package with 401K, healthcare, etc. Officers also work a 4/10 schedule, meaning they work four days with three days off each week.

Bellevue has faced challenges from within its police department. Most recently, former officer John Kivlin was charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend and witness tampering. Police Chief Steve Mylett was placed on leave amid allegations of a criminal nature being investigated by neighboring Bothell police. Mylett denies the allegations, most of which are unknown to the public.

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