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Seattle mayor calls police incentive proposal 'outstanding'

Two proposals are being considered as the city deals with a declining police force.

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell seemed to warm to a proposal to offer big incentives or pay for moving expenses for new police recruits.

At a Thursday appearance, Harrell said it was an "outstanding proposal" from Seattle Councilmember Sara Nelson to offer a resolution to open the door for thousands of dollars in incentives. The other ordinance, from Councilmember Lisa Herbold, would pay for moving expenses for new recruits. 

"It's exactly what the voters want," said Seattle Chamber President Rachel Smith on Thursday. Smith backed the proposal.

Smith and Andrew Thibault of EMC Research pointed to the "index" of 700 Seattle residents earlier this spring, spread across the city, that showed homelessness and public safety as the biggest issues. It also showed that two-thirds of those polled have thought about moving out of the city limits because of their concerns. 

"I've never seen this much consensus in the data," said Thibault. "[They] want to lead with compassion, but visible results on the street." 

Harrell has been non-committal on the idea, and opponents have argued that incentives would drain city coffers and not necessarily boost morale. But several other western Washington cities are offering thousands for lateral changes. Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said officers are working overtime just to meet the department's basic needs. 

Nelson's and Herbold's proposals will be heard at a Seattle City Council committee hearing on Tuesday, May 10.

"It is another one of those tools in the toolbox," said Smith. "We're eager to see all of that move forward."