Mayor Harrell: Seattle needs ‘comprehensive’ plan to bring in new police officers

Mar 25, 2022, 12:43 PM | Updated: 3:30 pm

As the Seattle Police Department has continued to struggle with low staffing and high turnover amid growing concerns over public safety, Mayor Bruce Harrell believes that bringing more officers into the fold will require a multi-faceted approach in the months ahead.

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Currently, SPD has over 900 sworn officers on duty, well short of its goal of having between 1,400 and 1,600. And while offering hiring bonuses was a sizable focus of the previous mayoral administration, Harrell believes those types of financial incentives are a small piece of a larger puzzle.

“The notion of incentive bonuses has come up — I’m not fully convinced that is the enticer,” he told KIRO Newsradio’s Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin. “We’re talking to the officers themselves and talking to public safety advocates. What is it that motivates you? Is it being on a great team, being appreciated, being respected, having the opportunity to build trust in schools with children?”

“What we’re looking at is a comprehensive package that we’ll develop before the budget,” he added. “We want to know that.”

And as Harrell pointed out, based on his own conversations with officers, “sometimes it’s not the money, it’s the other intangibles.”

So, what will entice officers to come to Seattle from other departments? Harrell says the city itself should be a significant selling point.

“This is still a phenomenal city,” he noted. “You want an industry, whether it’s high-tech, or biotech, or maritime, or port, or manufacturing, we have it here; freshwater, saltwater, mountains. We compete because we are the best city in this country and that’s not me being an evangelist, that’s just data.”

As for the officers who either left the department or were terminated as part of the COVID vaccine mandate for city employees, Harrell expressed that hiring them back is not currently under consideration.

“On the vaccine issue, I believe that we mandated it for a reason,” he explained. “I understand why someone may not want it and I support our first responders, make no mistake about this, but I think the data and the science would suggest that the vaccine is the way to go, and so I expect to lead by example.”

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“I’m going to make this clear too, I don’t beg police officers to come back — I’m not in the begging business,” Harrell added. “We’re giving you an opportunity to protect and serve, if that’s what you want to do, in one of the greatest cities.”

That said, the mayor acknowledged concerns among many departing officers who have cited low morale and a lack of support from city hall as a reason for leaving the department, while stressing that improving morale is a two-way street.

“There’s one thing you have control of — you know what that is? Your own attitude, your own morale,” Harrell said. “When organizations say, ‘Well, we’ve got a morale problem,’ that’s something you have control over every single day you get out the bed. You have the ability to control your own attitude.”

“So I’m not begging officers to come back,” he clarified. “I’m inspiring them to come back.”

Listen to Mayor Harrell’s full conversation with Gee and Ursula: 

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Mayor Harrell: Seattle needs ‘comprehensive’ plan to bring in new police officers