Mayor Bruce Harrell Shares Details of Comprehensive Police Recruitment and Retention Plan

Responding to more than 400 officer departures over the last two-and-a-half years, Mayor Harrell’s plan delivers urgent action and long-term steps to recruit and retain officers

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a new comprehensive recruitment strategy to bring police officers to Seattle. Joined by Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz, Mayor Harrell shared a robust and multi-pronged approach that includes increases in recruitment staffing and budget, competitive hiring incentives and relocation reimbursements, and system efficiency and modernization improvements to ease and accelerate the process for both new recruits and lateral transfers.

READ: Comprehensive Seattle Police Recruitment and Retention Plan

WATCH NOW: Mayor Harrell and Chief Diaz Share Details of Comprehensive Police Recruitment Strategy

“In One Seattle, every person has an absolute right to safety. We cannot deliver the effective public safety, swift response times, and thorough investigations our communities deserve without a well-staffed and well-trained police department,” said Mayor Harrell. “While today SPD staffing is at crisis levels, we also have in front of us an opportunity to restore and rebuild a Seattle Police Department that lives up to our highest values and priorities. We need the right number of officers and the right kind of officers – this comprehensive recruitment strategy ensures we are supporting our communities, building public trust, and elevating the next generation of SPD leaders. I’m grateful for the service of our current officers, who despite record low staffing continue to go above and beyond to serve and protect our community.”

Officer staffing levels are at their lowest in more than 30 years with over 400 officers departing SPD since 2019. This crisis is exacerbated by similar needs for more officers locally and nationally, creating an extremely competitive environment. Tangible impacts of the decrease in deployable officers include a continuing deterioration of police response times to priority calls, a 40% decrease in detectives available for vital investigative work, and increasing overtime expenses.

After taking office, the Harrell Administration reviewed local and national data, analyzed the entirety of the recruiting process, and read exit interviews from departing officers to develop this comprehensive plan. The plan increases the capacity, efficiency, and effectiveness of police officer recruitment without compromising the quality of applicants, their fit within SPD, or the community’s expectations.

Key elements of Mayor Harrell’s comprehensive recruitment plan include:

  • Expanding the applicant pool by prioritizing recruitment of candidates who reflect Seattle’s values and diverse communities and are committed to public service, including people with diverse racial and immigration backgrounds, people with college educations and language skills beyond English, and people who value living in Seattle;
  • Offering hiring incentives of up to $30,000 for lateral transfers and $7,500 for new recruits, ensuring Seattle is fully competitive with neighboring jurisdictions;
  • Reimbursing candidates’ applicant fees, travel expenses, and relocation costs when hired;
  • Hiring additional staff dedicated to SPD recruitment, greatly increasing capacity, focus, and expertise;
  • Developing an innovative new marketing plan and increasing advertising funding to reach more potential candidates through modern and diverse methods;
  • Redesigning recruitment systems and modernizing application processes to accelerate hiring, steps include for the first time allowing online application document exchanges, elimination of travel requirements for physical agility tests and oral board interviews, and more;
  • Creating a recruiting speakers bureau of respected community stakeholders and partnering with regional businesses and community-based organizations to promote public service careers in law enforcement;
  • Exploring development of new programs to support officer tuition assistance and to create a pipeline of potential recruits through local colleges and universities;
  • With additional urgent and long-term steps detailed in the full plan here.

“The challenges of the past two years have renewed in many a spirit to serve others. The police profession is a service profession, and the Seattle Police Department plans to add hundreds of service-oriented, sworn officers over the next several years,” said SPD Interim Chief Adrian Diaz. “However, SPD won’t hire just anyone.  Despite our current staffing crisis, this is not a numbers game. Our mission is simply to help people, so we will hire only the most compassionate, dedicated, and qualified employees. And you should know, this dedication to diversity and equity has already resulted in recent success; 50% of SPD recruits hired in 2022 represent multiple BIPOC communities. We are proud of our officers and look forward to welcoming only the best and the brightest.”

The plan also includes efforts to retain and support current officers, focusing on creating more career advancement opportunities and demonstrating an unwavering commitment to officer wellness and morale. The City is currently engaging in collective bargaining negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers Guild, following an agreement with the Seattle Police Management Association that was unanimously passed by the City Council last month.

Today, the Mayor’s Office is transmitting legislation to the City Council to formalize the plan’s proposals that require Council action. Mayor Harrell will continue to implement a holistic approach to improving Seattle’s public safety, including new strategies and technologies, community-based solutions, and neighborhood activation, revitalization, and beautification.