Seattle police recruit officers in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A team of recruiters from the Seattle Police Department is in Indianapolis this week to interview police officers from all across the eastern United States and convince them to pull up stakes to patrol the streets of the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle police have launched a lateral recruit campaign aimed at officers with more than three years of experience.

“I think we realized that it’s expensive for people to come from out of state to test in Seattle,” said SPD Sgt. Deb Nicholson. “Seattle is kind of an expensive place to go to and stay and to test, so, our outreach here was to try to come to Indianapolis because its centrally located, a good place for people from all over the United States to come, a little more reasonable place for people to come and test, so that’s what we were hoping that we could get people from all over and that’s what we’re trying to do with our testing in the future and take it to places and give the test so it can be more accessible to people.”

Nicholson said her recruitment team had inquiries from officers in Atlanta and along the eastern coast.

“We’ve been looking at all agencies, so, sure, we looked at Indianapolis.”

From a low of approximately 1,500 officers in 2014, IMPD has been struggling to reach its anticipated manpower of more than 1,800 officers, often graduating between 70-100 probationary officers from its academy every year while losing dozens of officers to retirement or transfer.

“It seems like we have officers who are a little bit older more established with the family, they may be going to another agency but they’re staying in the Midwest or even central Indiana,” said Lt. Rick Snyder, President of FOP Lodge #86. “And actually we’ve seen a couple go down to Texas, out west and some within Indiana.”

Snyder said the greatest challenge to IMPD is losing veteran officers to suburban cities that pay more but are smaller.

While Seattle P.D. outpaces both IMPD and the Indiana State Police in salary, the cost of living dwarfs the price of living in central Indiana.

The average third year patrol officer in Seattle makes $91,000 a year while veterans with the same time on the force in IMPD make $65,000 annually and state troopers are paid $57,000 annually.

When it comes to home prices, the median value of a single family home in King County, Washington, is $669,000 while a similar home in Marion County costs $165,000.

Seattle is not able to put a price, though, on the recreational opportunities and lifestyle of living near the Pacific Ocean, Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountain Range and the Canadian border.

“They look at a lot of people come for what is offered for the outdoor activity and the lifestyle there,” said Nicholson, “but I know people also look at the cost of living, certainly that’s always a factor wherever you’re going to move and then you have to decide, does the pay help offset that?”

While Nicholson wouldn’t reveal how many officers have been slotted for the three-hour long initial written test to be followed up by oral boards, she is hopeful that by the end of the week the department’s Midwest foray into lateral transfer recruiting would reveal approximately 30 officers willing to move on with the process.

At less than 1,500 officers with a smaller geographic area to patrol, Seattle is a smaller department and city, on the verge of signing its first police contract in four years with a new police chief, in a region that leans politically liberal, an anathema to many central Indiana police officers.