As Federal Way sees a recent uptick in crime, the mayor is asking the Federal Way City Council to approve adding 13 more officer positions to the city’s police force.
The mayor’s recommendation was presented Sept. 21, suggesting that the City Council approve to add 13 officers to the police department. The approval would increase the city’s police force from 137 to 150 authorized officers.
However, the amount of authorized officers does not show the police force’s actual numbers.
“We are 11 officers down as of today due to retirements, career changes, and lateral transfers,” said Steve McNey, communications director for the Mayor’s Office on Sept. 20. “However, we interviewed two candidates this afternoon and we are in the process of clearing backgrounds on ten more.”
Five more officers were placed on paid administrative leave after officers shot a man who attempted three carjackings, then pointed a gun at officers on the late afternoon of Sept. 20. The officers are on leave pending the Valley Independent Investigations Team’s review of the shooting.
Based on April 2020 U.S. Census data, Federal Way’s population is approximately 101,030 residents.
As of the department’s numbers on Sept. 21, Federal Way has 121 staffed officers, or a ratio of approximately 1.19 officers per 1,000 residents.
The mayor’s proposal suggests distributing the 13 additional officers among the department: six officers to patrol (one officer per each patrol squad), four offices to form a pro-act unit, two officers assigned to the Special Operations Unit (SOU), and one officer assigned to the traffic unit.
“Pro-act is part of the Special Investigations Unit, responsible for gang suppression, highway/downtown patrol, narcotics investigations and drug houses, neighborhood complaints of criminal activity, asset seizure management, adult business monitoring, and prostitution prevention enforcement,” according to the city. There has not been a “pro-act” branch of the unit in 14 years.
In addition to adding police officers, two additional records specialists will be required in order to maintain serving the public.
In 2007, the department was authorized for 136 officers and dropped to 122 officer positions in 2008 due to the recession, according to the city.
In the years since, Federal Way has slowly crept back to 137 authorized positions. Now, with several recent shootings and other violent crimes on the rise, the city is under pressure to regain a grasp on the safety of Federal Way.
“Federal Way’s population and calls for service support an authorized strength of 150 police officers,” the mayor’s proposal stated. The 150 officers equate to a ratio of 1.49 per 1,000 residents, based on last year’s population of 101,030.
Bringing on the additional 13 would require funding $1.27 million for officers’ salaries and benefits; $126,386 for the salaries and benefits of two records specialists; $183,000 in equipment and uniforms; and $962,000 for 13 patrols vehicles.
The department also has a current need of 15 additional police vehicles to accommodate existing police staff, according to the city. The total cost is approximately $1.1 million.
The proposed program also asks for $98,000 for hiring bonuses. The proposed bonus is $20,000 for lateral transfer officers and $2,000 for entry-level officers.
“Based on our normal hiring rates, we estimate four of the 13 may be laterals ($80,000) and nine will be entry ($18,000),” according to the mayor’s proposal.
“ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] revenue is considered for the capital acquisition of vehicles, but ruled out for now, because of the on-going replacement budgeting,” according to the city. “We could, however, pivot to ARPA, but a significant concern is perpetual replacement funding of an expanded fleet in future budgets. Either way, feasibility depends on committing to prioritizing this in 2023-24 and future-year budgets.”
After discussing the funding, concerns and questions associated with the proposal at the Federal Way City Council regular meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Jim Ferrell said the authorization will be up for action during the Oct. 19 council meeting.
“This is a very aggressive recommendation,” said Ferrell. “It is a historic recommendation that I am making to the council.”