SPD reveals new hiring numbers as city approves $1.2M to help

VIDEO: Fewer officers on streets despite SPD spending thousands

The Seattle city council approved $1.24 million on Monday for the Seattle Police Department's recruitment and retention efforts.

It comes as new numbers released to KIRO 7 show 81 officers left the department in 2019, including terminations, resignations, and retirements.

Police Chief Carmen Best said the department has hired 97 officers in the same time period, with one month to meet SPD's goal of 104.

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"We're digging ourselves out of a hole," Best said. "We're going in the right direction, but we still have work to do."

Data shows on January 1st, SPD had 756 officers patrolling the city. As of last week, the city has 722 officers on patrol. Best said they are hiring rapidly but it takes a while to get officers ready.
"It's not instantaneous, right?" she said. "There has to be some training that goes, obviously, with a job like this."

In May, KIRO 7 examined how officers' exit interviews revealed their frustrations, including what they called a lack of support from the city council and city leadership.

With a new bonus program approved this spring, the department has now spent $307,500 on sign-up bonuses for lateral and new hires.

But many of those officers are not on patrol yet. Of the 97 hired in 2019, 38 are on the streets in Field Training or as Probationary Officers and more than 50 are waiting to enter the state's law enforcement academy. There, officers undergo 720 hours of training and testing.

The process from application to officer on patrol includes a video, written, and physical agility test, 720 hours of training and testing at the state's law enforcement academy, and more field training with an officer.

"No one's going to be on the street from hired to finish before 8 and a half months have elapsed," Best said. "So we're trying to hire as much, as quickly as we can."

That means citizens will start seeing a lot of the officers who were hired this year in their neighborhoods next year.

"Do you believe SPD will reach its goal of hiring 104 officers this year?" reporter Linzi Sheldon asked.

"I believe we're going to reach the goal of hiring 104 officers," Best said, "but that doesn't mean we can take our foot off the gas."

The new funding package approved Monday will, in part, fund staff focused on recruiting, new management training programs, speeding up background checks, and adjusting the test process for new hires to make it more accessible.

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