Impending City of Seattle budget gap underpins SPD-hiring deliberation
The Seattle City Council has passed out of committee two pieces of legislation intended to remedy the Seattle Police Department’s staffing shortage, a department that has seen 60 separations in 2022 with only 19 hires, bringing total deployable officers down to 880 (SPD claims to need 1,400 to be considered fully staffed).
One, a resolution backed by Councilmember Sara Nelson, opens up unspent SPD salary savings for the use of hiring incentives, likely to include new and lateral hire bonuses. A resolution is not legally binding, and its function is to lay the groundwork for an ordinance that would allow for the implementation of a subsequent, more detailed staffing incentives program at SPD.
The other, a bill backed by Lisa Herbold, public safety chair, authorizes SPD to spend $1,150,000 on the salary for a new SPD position, a talent recruiter, as well as costs associated with moving expenses of new hires.
Both pieces of legislation underwent revision after their initial committee hearings. Herbold’s bill has increased the funds dedicated to recruitment from a previous $650,000. Nelson’s resolution now has language in place that effectively caps the money SPD can spend on new hire bonuses, word choice that calls out “anticipated 2023 budget constraints.”
The ordinance and resolution both passed on a 4 to 1 margin, with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda the lone “no” vote.
“I do care about how spending in one category affects spending in any other category in our city budget … all of us heard that the gap that we are currently facing … has shrunk from approximately $148 million to about $35 million. … now the departments are poised to … hold back potentially 6% of their budgets for next year. … I want to raise concerns about this approach today and also emphasize that the Seattle Police Department’s budget got $355.5 million in last year’s budget. This included funding for 125 new hires. This also made sure that there were no cuts to the current SPD staffing plans,” Mosqueda said in committee.
The revisions followed a mayoral statement that highlighted his office’s desire for compromise between Herbold and Nelson.
“We know that reaching national best practice staffing levels for SPD can’t be achieved solely with incentives. Progress requires a holistic effort rooted in our shared commitment to make this a place where officers feel welcome and supported – and where all neighbors feel safe,” Mayor Bruce Harrell wrote in a statement Monday.
Both proposals will be heard in front of the full council on May 24.