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Seattle City Council floats department shifts to aid police staffing issues

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(The Center Square) – Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson has introduced legislation to add onto the city’s continued attempts to improve staffing levels at the Seattle Police Department.

Nelson’s proposed ordinance would transfer positions from the Seattle Department of Human Resources to the Seattle Police Department and create a recruitment and retention program within the police department.

More specifically, it would transfer $310,000 and three recruitment positions from the Seattle Department of Human Resources to the Seattle Police Department. According to the city, these positions would be solely dedicated to recruiting new sworn employees and retaining existing sworn employees for the police department.

As part of the legislation, Seattle’s Public Safety Civil Service Commission would transitions to a public safety testing service that is already being used by other law enforcement agencies in King County. According to a central staff memo, this service would provide greater access to candidates who wish to make multiple applications with such local law enforcement agencies.

The commission would also endeavor to have more direct contact with entry level and lateral exam police officer applicants for the Seattle Police Department within two business days of application submission. Outreach to applicants would include assistance and support for completing the exam.

The Seattle Police Department has struggled with record low staffing levels since the COVID-19 pandemic. The department has realized a net loss of 337 fully trained police officers since 2020, with 911 response times having increased as a result.

According to the city, in the last two years, the Seattle Police Department yielded approximately half of its annual hiring targets, reaching a high of only 61 hires out of 1,948 applications in 2023, a conversion rate of 3%

“SPD continues to lose more officers than it’s able to hire and 2023 was no exception,” Nelson said in a Governance, Accountability and Economic Development Committee meeting on Thursday.

In a statement emailed to The Center Square, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said that his administration shares the same priorities with the city council and the police department regarding staffing.

“We have completed critical work to modernize the application system, reduce recruitment timelines, and improve advertising and incentives, and we appreciate Council President Nelson’s push to further these efforts,” Harrell said.

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