Mayor Durkan: Council needs to pass bill addressing SPD staffing ‘as soon as possible’
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced newly-proposed legislation Thursday that’s designed to ramp up the police department’s hiring, and address the city’s recent increase in gun violence.
Over a 36-hour period between Sunday and Monday of this week, 10 people were shot in six separate, unrelated incidents across the city, amid a year where gun violence in the region has risen to record highs.
In the days since, both Mayor Durkan and interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz have pointed to low staffing numbers within the police department as a contributing factor. Diaz estimates that SPD has lost roughly 250 officers to retirements and departures to other police departments over the last 17 months.
Durkan’s proposal would look to address that by asking city councilmembers to reinstate $15,000 hiring bonuses for lateral transfers into SPD from other cities, as well as $7,500 bonuses for new recruits. It would also look to add other incentives, including the addition of “precinct based mental health professionals for officers.”
“We don’t need to rehash the budget debates of last year on defunding, cuts, and out of order layoffs but Chief Diaz needs to act to address the current real hiring and staffing issues while we continue to advance alternatives that are critical to reimagining policing,” Mayor Durkan said in a news release.
As Durkan points out, the proposal wouldn’t add new dollars to SPD’s 2021 budget, and would instead lift existing spending restrictions to cover hiring bonuses. A separate piece of legislation proposed earlier this week would also include a specialized civilian-led 911 triage system for non-emergency calls, civilian crime prevention coordinators, and public disclosure officers.
For Diaz, he cited it as necessary to attracting new officers to a department that has struggled to maintain its staffing levels in recent years.
“Departments across the region and the country are competing for a limited pool of exceptional individuals committed to true relational policing and public service,” he said. “As we work to address the historic staffing crisis the department is facing – we need to do all we can to be competitive with other police departments and other local employers.”
This measure will next be transmitted to city council for further discussion and an eventual vote, with Diaz and Durkan stressing the need to pass it “as soon as possible.”