Murray sends funding plan for additional police officers to City Council

This week Mayor Ed Murray sent the Seattle City Council his proposed funding plan to finance the hiring of 200 new police officers and investments in the City’s 911 call center as outlined in his 2016 State of the City address.

“This is a balanced proposal that ensures that the Seattle Police Department will have sufficient staffing to meet the public safety needs of our growing city,” said Murray. “Residents, businesses, and experts agree that we must increase investments in our police department, hire additional officers, and enhance community engagement. I look forward to working with Council to finalize this plan and to continuing our shared commitment to protect the people and property of Seattle. ”

The proposal calls for an addition of 200 officers by the end of 2019, expanding the Seattle Police Department to the highest staff level in the history of the department. This level of expansion is in line with the police staffing study conducted by Berkshire Advisors.

“The Neighborhood Safety Alliance endorses the mayor’s proposed addition of more officers as starting point for meeting the City’s current and growing public safety needs,” said Cindy Pierce, President of the Neighborhood Safety Alliance. “This proposal is the best mechanism remaining to fund urgently needed expansion of the police force to match Seattle’s vigorous population growth and to bring our staffing levels closer to the norms of big cities in the U.S.”

The expansion of the Seattle Police Department will be financed through reprioritizing existing resources, identifying efficiencies and by increasing selected fees and taxes on Seattle businesses.

“The Ballard Chamber of Commerce supports Mayor Murray’s proposal to add 200 new police officers to the Seattle Police force,” said Mike Stewart, Executive Director of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce.  “We look forward to engaging with the Seattle City Council on this important step forward.”

“Our businesses have been advocating for additional officers for many years,”says Leslie Smith, Executive Director of the Alliance for Pioneer Square. “The need for the police force to be staffed adequately given the growth in our city is felt acutely in both the Downtown and greater Seattle.”

The cost of the 200 additional officers, improving the 911 call center and other information technology investments will cost $37 million per year. Murray is proposing to raise $14 million in new revenues and fund the remaining $23 million (nearly two-thirds of the necessary funding) from existing resources. Roughly half of the General Fund resources has already been approved by Council for hiring additional police officers.

The proposed increases in taxes and fees on Seattle businesses are:

  • 2 percent increase over two years in the existing Business and Occupation (B&O) tax rates, which have not risen since 1991, generating $8.4 million per year. A retail business with $1 million in revenues would pay an additional $70 a year.
  • Restructuring and increasing the City’s Business License fee, with fees increasing in five steps depending on the size of the business, generating $5.8 million per year. The smallest businesses would see a license fee increase of $25 a year.

Incoming calls to SPD’s 911 call center call have placed a growing strain on the current system. Call center volumes have increased by 13 percent since 2010. The call center will be adding staff and making technology investments to handle the growing number of calls for service. Other technology investments at the department include technology infrastructure to support body worn cameras for officers and a new time tracking tool to help manage officer overtime.