The Federal Way City Council unanimously approved authorizing more officers to the police department, despite already having several existing vacancies on the force.
The department was previously authorized for 137 officers. With the addition of the 13 newly approved officer positions, Federal Way’s force is now authorized for 150 officers.
“We just need more police presence right now to make people feel safe,” said Police Chief Andy Hwang during the Oct. 19 meeting when the council approved the additional officers.
This ratio is 1.49 officers per 1,000 residents, based on last year’s population of 101,030. However with the 13 added positions, the city’s force still has open positions waiting to be filled.
“We are currently down five officers, plus the 13 newly approved positions,” said Steve McNey, communications director for the city on Oct. 26. “We have hired quite a few officers recently and have four more lateral officers going through background now.”
As of Oct. 26, the City of Federal Way has 132 filled officer positions for a ratio of about 1.32 officers per 1,000 residents.
During the meeting, Hwang said it takes about 14 months from a person’s hiring date to their first day on the streets as a trained officer. Hwang estimates the city will be able to fill the 13 new positions in about a year.
The department’s hiring pace has accelerated, he said, along with increased diversity among candidates with more Federal Way residents, women and people of color applying.
“I think we are long overdue to increase our pro-act unit to have more of an impact to address crime,” Hwang said.
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 specialists will be hired.
The 13 additional police officers will be allocated as: Six officers to patrol, one to each of the six patrol squads; four officers to form a pro-act unit; two officers to Special Operations Unit (SOU); one officer to the traffic unit.
Cost includes salaries and vehicles
Salary and benefits for 13 police officers is $1.27 million or $98,106 per officer for the first year. The salary and benefits of the two records specialists are $126,386, or $63,193 per specialist.
The department is offering hiring bonuses at $20,000 for lateral officers and $2,000 for entry-level officers.
The additional of 13 new full equipped patrol vehicles is $962,000, or $74,000 per vehicle. This includes the vehicle, FWPD markings, installation of police radio and other items, IT equipment and police equipment.
In addition, the police department needs 15 more police vehicles beyond the 13 needed for new officers to accommodate existing police staff. To compare to nearby agencies, Federal Way Police will be offering take-home cars, which is “an important issue for recruiting and retention,” according to the department. The 15 vehicles will cost $1.1 million.
Jail cost savings provide about $1 million in savings this year, and another half million in 2022. The police department also has current savings due to open positions to be redeployed within the current police budget. These savings will fund most of the 2022 cost, said Finance Director Steve Groom.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will be used to fund the vehicles, but will not help in future budgets, Groom said. The remainder funding will be covered by existing current-year savings. Come 2024 and beyond, the city council will need to figure out how to fund the positions.
Before the vote at the Oct. 19 meeting, Councilmember Leandra Craft asked if a social worker could be added to the department’s force. Mayor Jim Ferrell said he supports the idea, and said it will be addressed at a later time and with a separate proposal.