New data suggests that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is still struggling to recruit personnel, making no gains despite its robust $3.8 million hiring budget.
At a May 23 Seattle City Council committee meeting, SPD reported that it managed to hire 26 new staff members in the first quarter of 2023, with 28 employees leaving the department. This amounts to seven fewer net hires than SPD’s initial projections.
According to the presentation, total trained staffed levels sat at 1,029 in the first quarter of 2023, a significant drop compared to 1,114 in the first quarter of 2022 and 1,339 in that time span in 2020.
SPD’s hiring woes mirror similar trends across the country, with many police departments struggling to maintain pre-COVID-19 pandemic staffing rates.
The quarterly report comes after the city council authorized more than $900,000 in bonuses to new hires. Fresh recruits can receive up to $7,500, while lateral hires from other agencies could gain as much as $30,000 under the scheme.
So far, just under $150,000 of this budget has been spent, amounting to roughly 16 percent of the total budget.
SPD recruitment seems to have been hampered by bureaucratic hurdles, with hardly any of the $1.5 million advertising budget being spent so far. According to the presenters, new staff have been revamping the marketing plan for the department, delaying placement of ads to prospective recruits.
A lack of spending on recruitment technology may also be contributing to the lack of hiring success. Despite having a budget of $434,000 for technology-related recruitment expenses, SPD has only spent $5,000 in the first three months of 2023.
In total, only $228,000 has been spent on recruitment by SPD, out of the yearly budget of $3.8 million. This lack of spending may explain why the department has failed to attract as many hires as it wanted.
SPD staff have revised their target staffing levels for fully trained officers from 1,061 to 1,028 by the end of the year, forecasting virtually no gain in 2023.
Read more of the May 31-June 6, 2023 issue.