SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council voted 6-3 to advance two measures related to police hiring incentives.
The council passed a resolution put forward by Councilmember Sara Nelson signaling support for funding a police staffing incentive program by lifting a budget proviso restricting the Seattle Police Department (SPD) from using salary savings.
The council also passed an ordinance by Councilmember Lisa Herbold authorizing the city to offer relocation assistance for recruits in several hard-to-fill positions with the city, including police officers.
The ordinance also authorizes $650,000 toward relocation benefits for police hires and an additional recruiter. Another $350,000 will be allocated to recruitment advertising and assisting with the search for the city’s next police chief.
It comes at a time when there is a continued push related to public safety and new ideas for how to supplement a staffing shortage.
On Tuesday, members of five different neighborhood business associations suggested the city find 2023 funding for new roles to supplement the police. That could include a community coordinator, or civilian patrol unit and funding for assistance in replacing windows or removing graffiti.
“As we’ve seen the police force shrink, [we’ve] seen that folks in my position have had to do things we’ve never done before,” said Erin Goodman of the SODO Business Improvement Area, who spoke during the Tuesday morning meeting. “We 100% advocate for and want an appropriately staffed police department but we’re in the situation we’re in, these are proposals that we think will compliment or staff a police response.”
“We need a civilian foot patrol. That’s the number one thing I hear from businesses. They remember when there were officers walking around,” she said.
Down the street, Todd Biesold of Merlino Foods said they need help.
“We had seven rifle rounds put into the building, put out four windows and a city light meter,” he said, noting police response was slow. “They’re spread too thin. They’re not coming.”
“The window that got replaced here, it was 1,200 bucks. I don’t care what sized company you are, 1,200 bucks is 1,200 bucks,” he said.
Prior to the incentive vote, Councilmember Andrew Lewis noted that, “Police staffing is necessary, but it’s not sufficient for the public safety crisis we’re facing.” He was one of the majority votes.
The Downtown Seattle Association released a statement on the incentives vote, saying:
“This action, and Mayor Harrell’s forthcoming comprehensive SPD recruitment strategy, will help ensure Seattle is competitive and able to attract new recruits. This is a critical first to restoring public safety in our city. SPD has been woefully understaffed for decades and hasn’t kept pace with the growth of our city. A right-sized department is essential to improving response times and instilling confidence in community safety. Residents, visitors and workers feeling secure in our city is essential for recovery.”