Does Seattle need more cops who actually live in Seattle?
Less than one-fifth of SPD's 1330 sworn officers actually live in-city, and Mayor Mike McGinn seems to think that's not enough.
In his State of the City address Tuesday, McGinn said:
It's hard to have a good local police force if the police aren't local. State law prevents us from requiring officers to live in this city. But we have over 300 officers who are eligible for retirement. That gives us an opportunity to recruit officers from the community and who understand our community and its values. And we will do that. We will expand the targeting pool for new officers, to seek those who have the life experience and maturity to meet the high standards we have for the Seattle Police Department. We want a police force that looks like Seattle.
While we're not sure we can give you a clear idea of what Seattle's police force "looks like"--whatever that means--we can give you a detailed look at where Seattle cops live.
Several weeks ago, we filed a public disclosure request with SPD, asking for the home zipcodes of all sworn employees.
Seattle shares zipcodes with parts of Shoreline and Tukwila, and one employee's listed zipcode is in Oregon (?!?), but we think our chart gives a pretty accurate breakdown of where cops live:
Is Mayor McGinn right? Would cops have a stronger connection to Seattle if they lived here?
We won't find out anytime soon.
While the city's in the midst of negotiating a new contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild, sources tell us that in-city living requirements or incentives are not on the table, and couldn't be introduced at this point in the discussion.
On top of that, several city officials--including McGinn and Councilmember Tim Burgess's office--believe state law prohibits Seattle from requiring SPD officers to reside in-city:
Residency as condition of employment — Discrimination because of lack of residency — Prohibited.
No city, town, or municipality shall require any person applying for or holding an office, place, position, or employment under the provisions of this chapter or under any local charter or other regulations described in RCW 41.12.010 to reside within the limits of such municipal corporation as a condition of employment or to discriminate in any manner against any such person because of his or her residence outside of the limits of such city, town, or municipality.
We'll be talking to officers and city officials over the next few days about the pros and cons of having a police force that actually lives in the city it protects.
We'll also bring you details on what other cities have done to keep their departments staffed with locals.
If you're a Seattle police officer and you'd like to talk about why you live in or outside of Seattle--anonymity guaranteed--give me a call at 206 659 7249 or email me at [email protected].