Police Will Freeze Hiring, Cut Civilian Positions, Reshuffle Officers and Detectives

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee September 27, 2010

Here's the letter sent out to Seattle Police Department staff this morning, which confirms some of the cuts we've already mentioned.

The quick version: SPD is freezing hiring, and transferring about 30 detectives and specialty unit officers back to patrol (which is sure to piss off a ton of people in the department), including seven officers from the five precincts' community police teams, two burglary and theft detectives, five detectives from special ops (like Traffic and Homeland Security units), four detectives from investigations, and three sworn staff members from the training, policy, and human resources units.

As we already mentioned, the mounted unit and several crime prevention coordinator positions are being cut as well. We've heard that the department is also preserving some of the victim advocate positions, but we haven't yet confirmed that.

Here's the letter:

To Department Employees: 

As you may know, Mayor McGinn will present his proposed budget to City Council today at 2 p.m.  For this budget biennium, Seattle faced a serious revenue decline similar to other major cities.  This funding loss was a result of the national recession in 2008-2009 that hit Seattle later than other cities.  While technically the recession may be over from an economist point of view, the lack of strong revenues continues to impact our city’s businesses, property values, and individuals.

In developing this budget, the Mayor and the City Budget Office, working with City Department Heads, had to fill a $60 million resource gap.   The Police Department had to accept its share of reductions.  Unfortunately, due to these severe financial constraints brought on by the economic downturn, the elimination of some positions entirely, reduction of some FTEs, and reallocation of other positions to a lower paying job title were unavoidable. To help minimize impacts to our core services and prevent staffing cuts, the senior command staff employed the following strategies:  

· Retention of sworn direct services as the highest priority.

· Continue to work toward the goal of Neighborhood Policing Plan Implementation.

· Maintain non-sworn staff who support sworn or provide direct mandated services to public, such as Communications Dispatchers and information technology specialists.

· Make reductions in operating and other non-personnel areas to provide the most efficient and cost effective programs.

The proposed budget impacts both sworn and civilian staff. The total amount of cuts to the Department Budget is proposed to be 4.2 million dollars.  To meet this guideline – as many of you well know - we made deep cuts in overtime, travel/training and operating expense budgets, on top of those we are already living with. As onerous as these reductions are and will continue to be, we could not avoid significant personnel impacts.  For sworn, the budget includes elimination of funding for the hiring of 62 new police officers from the original Neighborhood Policing Plan between 2010 through 2012. It also requires the transfer of 30 officers/detectives to NPP/911 Response from various areas in SPD, and includes dismantling the Mounted Unit. Finally, 2 sworn detectives are being transferred due to a grant ending. 

It is important to emphasize that the Mayor has agreed to maintain the sworn positions in the Department organizational chart which have been designated for transfer into patrol, so that if and when the budget recovers, we can re-fill those positions.  The transfers, which will be effective January 1, 2011, are as follows: 13 from within patrol (six CPT, six Clerks); two B/T Detectives; five from Special Operations (Traffic/Homeland Security); four from Investigations; three from other units (Training, Policy, HR) and the Mounted Unit.  Because the actual order of transfer will not be known until late in the year - owing to future retirements and held vacancies - we will not be notifying potentially impacted incumbent employees at this time.  

For civilians, there will be the abrogation of 4 positions in SPD beginning January 2011, of which 2 civilian positions are vacant, and 2 civilian positions are filled.  Additionally, 5 civilian positions will end in April of 2011, due to funding loss.  Two other positions will be reduced to .80 percent time, and two positions will have a change in classification due to managerial redetermination of duties.  Actual layoffs will be conditioned on transfers, retirements, voluntary reductions, etc.  

Employees are being notified by their division director or supervisor if they are at risk of layoff due to position abrogation or being the least senior employee in a job classification or classification series where positions have been proposed to be abrogated, or if their position is being reduced or reallocated.

These are among the most difficult decisions I am required to make, in large part due to the value I place on my employees’ contributions, as well as the esteem I hold for all our personnel.  A layoff order is a difficult event for an employee to confront, and it is certainly going to be the source of stress and uncertainty.  I appreciate your patience and understanding as we undertake difficult decisions in this extremely challenging economic environment.

John Diaz

Chief of Police

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