SEATTLE — Struggling to hire and competing with agencies locally for candidates, Seattle police on Tuesday signed a contract with the U.S. Army with the hope boosting recruiting efforts.
Police Chief Carmen Best and Lt. Col. Mark Davis, who heads the Army’s Seattle recruiting battalion, praised the agreement, which is part of the Army’s Partnership for Youth Success (PAYS) program.
“Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. These are the Army values and they align well with our Seattle Police Department values,” Best said to a room filled with officers and soldiers. “This is a wonderful way to provide opportunities to those who have served our country.”
The Army program, which started in 2000, connects soldiers with more than 500 employers across the nation – a group locally that includes Amazon, the Washington State Patrol, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the Pan Pacific Hotel in Seattle.
Employers that are enrolled in the program have agreed to interview soldiers when they’re leaving the Army.
Davis said the interview doesn’t guarantee employment, but “it’s just a way to really look into an option that might be open to you.”
Seattle police Detective Carrie McNally, who runs SPD’s recruiting office, said the department needs to continue searching far and wide for applicants.
“When I came on I was testing with 1,200 other people for 10 jobs and now in an entire year — we had 847 entry-level candidates apply in an entire year,” McNally said. She added that last year’s applicant pool was down 30 percent from 2017.
McNally said last year 109 people retired from SPD and the department was only able to hire 68.
“It’s the worst I’ve seen it in my career,” McNally said.
McNally said departments nationwide are worried about the low number of applicants, but they’re equally, if not more, concerned about the aging of their police departments.
“Agencies across the county are dealing with the same issues that we are, and that’s retirement age. We have about 30 percent of our department eligible to retire,” McNally said.
At the Criminal Justice Training Commission, the state police academy, Tuesday, dozens of rookie trainees practiced hand-to-hand combat, how to handle an ambush situation and DUI stops.
Rex Caldwell, who supervises the academy’s training division, said when he was hired as an officer in 1981 a good percentage of his colleagues were military veterans. He said he’s seen departments’ change their hiring preferences over the years, but it hasn’t stopped veterans from getting jobs.
“We have, right now, eight classes going on on campus, each class is about 30 people. Of those classes roughly one-third are veterans of our military services,” Caldwell said. “Those are people that have a dedicated history service, they’ve gotten good training, they understand what it means to work long hours and weekends and holidays.”