Mayor Harrell Signs New Police Contract to Support Recruitment and Accountability After Council Passage

Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a new contract with rank-and-file police officers into law following its passage by the City Council. The agreement is an important step to addressing Seattle’s police staffing crisis, expanding civilian public safety responses, and strengthening police accountability.

“The new police officer contract is a needed step forward to advance our vision for a city where everyone, in every neighborhood, is safe and feels secure,” said Mayor Harrell. “I want to thank our officers for the work they do every day to keep us safe, and I want to thank our City Council partners for supporting this agreement that will make meaningful improvements to officer pay and staffing, to accountability so misconduct is investigated, and to new efficiencies through diversified response options. Seattle is a world-class city, and the updated wages and terms in this agreement reflect a commitment to building, recruiting, and retaining the world-class police service our community deserves.”

“Approving this contract is long overdue. Our SPD officers have served our city for far too long without an updated contract that reflected the changing national and regional market fiscal landscape. SPD staffing is pillar number 1 in our Public Safety Strategic Framework, and getting this contract done is a major step forward in our all-hands-on deck effort to address the permissive environment underlying our public safety challenges.” said Councilmember Bob Kettle (District 7), Chair of the Public Safety Committee.

Addressing Seattle’s police staffing crisis

Seattle’s rank-and-file police officers have been working without a wage increase since January 1, 2021. In the three-and-a-half years since, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) went from being one of the best paying departments in the country to being 15th just in the Puget Sound Region. SPD currently offers new recruits nearly $20,000 per year less than places like Redmond.

Pay is a key contributor to SPD’s staffing crisis. Since the previous contract expired and staffing levels are currently at their lowest in decades.

This new agreement makes SPD wages competitive with other departments in Washington and other major US cities. It increases wages 1.3% retroactive to 2021, 6.4% retroactive to 2022, and 15.3% retroactive to 2023.

Expanding civilian public safety responses

The new contract significantly expands the City’s ability to use civilian resources to assist with public safety services, including but not limited to: responding to lost, missing, or found property events; requests for transportation; emergency food and shelter requests; property damage; noise complaints; delivering messages and mail; addressing landlord/tenant problems; support missing juveniles, runaways, and missing adult persons; wellness checks; and acting as hospital guards for low-level offenders.

Increasing the types of public safety duties civilians can respond to decreases workload on police officers and increases officers’ time to focus on types of crime only they can – like protecting people from violence.

The new contract also allows for civilian review of automated traffic safety camera violations and expands civilian assistance to detective units with administrative tasks, case file preparation, and crime analysis.

Strengthening police accountability

Washington State law requires cities like Seattle to negotiate with police unions on what types of police accountability policies they can implement. This new contract makes important improvements to:

  • Increase the number of civilian investigators in the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) by two, bringing the total overseeing and investigating allegations to seven.
  • Strengthen disciplinary decisions by requiring that when officers appeal discipline, the arbitrator must give deference to the discipline imposed by the police chief.
  • Improve the appointment process of arbitrators by eliminating “shopping” for arbitrators and establishing qualification requirements as per new state law.
  • Expand protections for OPA investigations by ensuring the 180-day deadline for investigations is extended in key situations.
  • Streamline OPA investigations by eliminating burdensome notice requirements.

What’s next?

This agreement covers 2021-2023. Negotiations for 2024, including work to strengthen police accountability, civilian alternatives, and other items proposed by the City based on input from community partners and the federal judge overseeing the City’s Consent Decree with the Department of Justice, are still ongoing. Those negotiations are taking place with the assistance of a mediator appointed by the Public Employment Relations Commission.