Seattle councilmember proposes changes to city budget to address SPD staffing crisis

Sep 10, 2021, 4:50 PM | Updated: Sep 11, 2021, 7:20 am
SPD, police officers, law enforcement...
Seattle police at a rally on Jan. 5, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen announced a new proposal Friday, designed to address ongoing staffing shortages at the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

Seattle’s next mayor ‘needs to support the police department’

The SPD has lost an estimated 250 officers to retirements and to other cities over the last 17 months. That’s led to difficulties in the realm of crime prevention, as well as 911 response efforts.

“With the staffing crisis, it is difficult to be able to be more preventative and intervene at times, and having that visual deterrent of having officers out there to ensure that we don’t have shootings in our community,” interim SPD Chief Adrian Diaz warned early in 2021.

Councilmember Pedersen’s proposal offers a pair of options to address that issue by amending the city’s mid-year budget. The first would take $3 million originally set aside by the council’s finance committee for programs in 2023, and use over $2.7 million of that “as a down payment toward retention efforts” for existing officers. Another $233,000 would go toward hiring initiatives.

The second option would take $1.1 million in previously unallocated finance committee dollars, directing $867,000 toward retention and $233,000 for hiring.

“This legislation provides options for immediately addressing not only the low morale of these emergency frontline city workers, but also the real shortage of community policing officers and detectives due to the recent tidal wave of attrition,” Pedersen said.

SPD says newly-passed policing bill will have ‘limited’ effect on city

Money spent on retention would potentially go toward recommendations outlined in a 2019 study commissioned by the city, which calls for improved communication up and down SPD’s chain of command, allowing more input from officers on policy changes, and allowing officers to “clear their card” if complaints filed against them are not sustained by the Office of Police Accountability.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed a separate bill aimed at hiring and retaining police officers in late July, which would 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.”

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Seattle councilmember proposes changes to city budget to address SPD staffing crisis