Mayor Durkan, city council could be primed for another showdown over SPD hiring

Nov 2, 2021, 5:29 AM
street racing, seattle police hiring bonuses...
Police cars block Pike Street by Pike Place Market near the scene of a shooting in Seattle, Washington, on January 22, 2020. (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

With Mayor Jenny Durkan issuing an emergency declaration last Friday to authorize hiring bonuses for new Seattle Police Department employees, it will now be up to the city council to decide how to proceed.

Seattle City Council rejects using officer exodus savings on SPD hiring, retention

The order would seek to immediately implement hiring bonuses of $25,000 for lateral SPD hires and $10,000 for new hires, with Durkan pointing to concerns over the 250 officers her office says have left the department over the last two years.

While Durkan has broad executive authority to issue the order itself, councilmembers ultimately have final say, with the option to approve it, reject it, or amend it. During a Monday morning council briefing, Councilmember Kshama Sawant expressed her hope to have central staff “prepare the legislation to reject this emergency order.”

Council President Lorena Gonzalez was more hesitant to dismiss the order out of hand, urging her colleagues to “spend some time” with it, and to direct all questions to central staff “by the end of the day.”

Councilmember Lisa Herbold — who also chairs the council’s public safety committee — expressed her belief that the process should be addressed through the ongoing budget process, rather than through an emergency order.

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

“I really feel like we should be going with this issue as part of the budget process, and hope that’s how we move forward,” she said.

Durkan had originally proposed that the city set aside $1.09 million in the 2022 budget to cover SPD hiring bonuses. Herbold has since responded with an amendment that would move that money into general reserves while the city awaits “recommendations from a report on a Citywide hiring incentive program.”

That amendment was co-sponsored by Gonzalez, as well as Councilmembers Andrew Lewis and Tammy Morales, signaling that a large portion of the council could be opposed to Durkan’s emergency order, which would cover SPD hiring bonuses through the end of this year. Councilmembers also rejected a plan from Durkan’s office in September, which had sought to use savings from recently-departed officers to fund hiring and retention efforts.

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Mayor Durkan, city council could be primed for another showdown over SPD hiring