Seattle, WA – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an executive order on Friday that authorized up to $25,000 hiring bonuses in order to re-staff the beleaguered Seattle Police Department (SPD).
Seattle’s police force has been in a downward spiral for the past two years, and just four days before the election to replace her, Durkan made a move to reverse the trajectory using tax dollars, KCPQ reported.
Durkan is not running for re-election.
The city had lost more than 20 percent of its police force as of May of 2021, and that was before the controversy over enforcement of the vaccine mandate came into play.
“We are at record lows in the city right now,” Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz told KING in April. “I have about 1,080 deployable officers. This is the lowest I’ve seen our department.”
Seattle police stood to lose another one-third of its police force when the city’s vaccine mandate went into effect in October.
Ahead of that date, Seattle police put non-patrol officers on the street to answer 911 calls.
But not all unvaccinated officers have been sidelined yet because their collective bargaining agreement gives them a “Loudermill hearing” to present their side before they are formally separated from the police department, KING reported.
The city remains in a state of flux waiting for the policing shortage to worsen.
Durkan said her executive order on Oct. 29 would allow for hiring incentives from within the current city budget to help address the police officer and 911 dispatcher shortages, KING reported.
“When residents call 911, they expect an officer to show up – and when they call the 911 emergency line, they expect that someone will answer the phone,” she said.
“Hiring, recruiting and training takes months, and we need to act now to ensure we can have trained and deployable staff,” the mayor said. “Seattle cannot keep waiting to address the real public safety officer hiring and retention crisis we are experiencing in Seattle right now.”
Durkan’s executive order set up $25,000 signing bonuses for experienced police officers making lateral transfers from other police departments, KCPQ reported.
It also established $10,000 hiring bonuses for new hires who join the police department and complete the police academy.
Chief Diaz praised the mayor’s executive order, KCPQ reported.
“The Seattle Police Department is thankful Mayor Durkan recognizes our current staffing crisis and that she has taken the necessary step to ensure we can recruit the best and brightest new officers,” the police chief said.
“Hiring is a challenge for every law enforcement agency right now, and most are offering incentives to attract new members,” he said. “These new hiring bonuses will level the competitive playing field and will allow the SPD to attract the highest caliber employees we need to protect and serve all people of Seattle.”
But the president of the Seattle police union called Durkan’s move “too little, too late,” the Daily Mail reported.
Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Mike Solan said the mayor betrayed police when she supported the defunding movement.
“The result of this betrayal has caused 350 police officers to flee Seattle since the riots,” Solan said. “Many of these former police employees left for lower paying agencies just to escape Seattle’s toxic political climate.”
“We also have another 100 officers now off the street due to the Mayor’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate and another 130 officers currently unavailable for service who are out on extended leave,” the union boss said in a statement.
“When totaled, that is just under half the department gone/unavailable in almost two years,” Solan pointed out. “Seattle’s current police staffing crisis was caused by our current politicians and sadly it all could’ve been avoided. This political betrayal will forever be their legacy.”
Durkan supported the city council’s successful effort to defund the police by 17 percent in 2021, the Daily Mail reported.