Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell on Wednesday announced a $2 million plan to recruit more police officers to alleviate a “crisis level” shortage, including proposed incentives of up to $30,000 for lateral transfers and $7,500 for new recruits.
More than 400 Seattle police officers have resigned or retired since 2020, dropping the number of sworn officers from 1,300 from 2013 to 2019 to 954 in 2022, according to The Seattle Times.
“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,” Harrell said at a press conference announcing the plan.
“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.”
The announcement comes after three years of cuts to the police budget by City Council members. They slashed almost 20% from the 2021 budget and last year voted 8-1 to cut police funding by more than $7 million for the 2022 budget.
In 2020, then-Police Chief Carmen Best announced her retirement after Seattle’s City Council voted to cut nearly $4 million from the police department’s 2019-2020 budget of $400 million.
The council rebalanced the budget amid calls to defund the police in the wake of protests following the death of George Floyd.
Harrell, in his press conference, said he wanted “the right numbers of officers and the right kind of officers. It crosses racial lines, it crosses socioeconomic lines that people want to feel safe, and they have a right to feel safe.
“My job is to promote the goodness of Seattle,” Harrell added. “That’s what I do. I will continue talking to officers, the people in the city. We are not going to give up. We are going to change the narrative and it starts with this plan. Changing the narrative is going to be critically important to our success.”