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Addressing officer recruitment concerns with the Seattle Police Department

Recruiting and retaining police officers at the Seattle Police Department has been an increasing issue for several years.

While other agencies in the area also deal with this problem, some manage it better than others.

In a Tuesday afternoon City Council meeting, Seattle’s Public Safety Committee, councilmembers, and members of the Seattle Police Department discussed some of the department’s weak spots, which are believed to be linked to low recruiting and high turnover.

A list showing entry-level pay in 2022 and 2024 from nineteen different agencies across the region ranked Seattle 15th. Interestingly, out of those nineteen entry-level salaries, only ten agencies had theirs listed for 2022. According to this, Seattle is the only agency with an entry-level wage that has stayed the same at $83,000.

A recruiter for Seattle Police also mentioned, “The last time Seattle officers received a raise was four years ago, on January 1, 2020.”

The low and untouched pay is a harsh contrast to the city of Seattle’s sharp increase in the cost of living. But the Seattle Police Department’s recruiter says that’s not all.

“The take-home cars—the Port of Seattle and Redmond PD now have Medical after retirement. [Local agencies] are really getting creative with the incentives in a way I’ve never seen in my 30 years of law enforcement,” the recruiter said.

When a council member heard about this and other incentives, the recruiter mentioned other agencies’ offerings. He responded to the recruiter, asking if these were incentives offered by Seattle. She replied, “No.”

The council member then clarified, “So, what you’re highlighting is retention has become a part of recruiting a big portion?”

The recruiter responded swiftly, “Yes.”

In a survey conducted from November 2022 to October 2023, the city found that salary was the most important factor for applicants deciding whether to become police officers.

However, regarding incentive pay—something Seattle ranked in the top 3 for entry-level and lateral moves—on average, it was less important than salary and benefits.

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