How to Become a Police Officer in Seattle

Seattle is the largest city in Washington and with a population of over 650,000 it is the 20th largest city in the US.1 Seattle has many attractions that make it a great place to live, from the iconic Space Needle to its beautiful waterfront. Cops in the city are compensated handsomely, earning an average income of $79,100 per year.2 Future law enforcement officers will find that Seattle can be a great place to build a future.

Men and women who want to join the Seattle Police Department will find information on the application, selection, and training process below.

Seattle Police Officer Requirements

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) employs over 1,800 police officers and civilians who serve the city’s 143 square miles of land and 59 square miles of waterways.3 To join the SPD, hopeful cops must:

  • Be 20.5 years of age by the time they take the written exam
  • Be a US citizen
  • Possess a valid Washington State driver’s license
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED
  • Not have been dishonorably discharged from the military
  • Have no felony convictions or misdemeanors (while employed in a law enforcement position)
  • Have no domestic violence convictions
  • Have no DUIs, negligent or reckless driving, nor hit and run offenses within the past five years

All potential SPD cops must take and pass the physical ability test and civil service test, a multiple choice exam that focuses on memorization, general knowledge, grammar, spelling, and reading comprehension. Applicants must also pass a background investigation and a credit check. The credit check focuses on failure to pay child support and federal or state taxes.

For more information about becoming a law enforcement officer in a big city like Seattle, check out 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our home page. For more details about SPD recruitment, visit their recruitment page.

Chief Kathleen O’Toole was sworn in as the Chief of Police for the Seattle Police Department in 2014. Chief O’Toole has experience as a police officer as well as an attorney. She has served as Chief of the Metropolitan District Commission Police and Lieutenant Colonel in Massachusetts. Chief O’Toole was appointed to Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety in 1994 and Boston Police Commissioner in 2004. She received a BA degree from Boston College in 1976 and obtained her JD from the New England School of Law in 1982.

Seattle Police Department Information

The SPD operates five police precincts across the city. Each precinct is made up of smaller areas called sectors. The city has a total of 17 sectors. The sectors are subdivided into three smaller sections referred to as beats where cops patrol.3

The Department has several units and teams that cops can work in, including the crisis intervention team, traffic enforcement, parking enforcement, harbor patrol, the canine unit, and SWAT.

Seattle Police Training Academy

All SPD recruits must attend the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center. Basic training at the Academy consists of a 720-hour training course to prepare officers for police work. Instructional topics include criminal law and procedures, traffic enforcement, cultural awareness, communication skills, firearms, crisis intervention, patrol procedures, criminal investigation, and defensive tactics.4

Seattle Police Salary and Jobs Outlook

The average annual salary for the 4,200 cops in the Seattle metropolitan area was $79,100 in 2014.2 The number of law enforcement officers in Washington is projected to increase by 3.4% between now and 2022, equating to an average of 300 law enforcement openings per year.5 The number of police officers hired is affected by the city’s budget and the police officer retirements.

To view open listings for police officers in Seattle, visit our Jobs Board.

More Information on the Seattle Police Department and Crime

The SPD has many opportunities for the community to get involved and learn more about police work. Seattle residents can participate in Living Room Conversations, which are group meetings involving cops and community members.

The Department has Demographic Advisory Councils which include members of various races and ethnicities that represent Seattle to work with the police in addressing concerns and making recommendations from their perspectives. The Councils have two main goals: to build trust police and community members of diverse backgrounds through enhanced communication effort and programs and to increase the participation of all people in regards to public safety issues. The Advisory Councils accomplish this by facilitating two-way dialogues, by building relationships, and through mutual education.

Seattle also has a Police Explorers program to help adolescents become more comfortable with police operations and interaction through education and involvement. Explorers must be between the ages of 14 to 21. Explorers must attend at least one community event per month and can attend the Regional Law Enforcement Explorer Conference.

The SPD offers an 11-week or one-day Community Police Academy program for all residents to understand more about the Police Department. The program educates Seattle residents on the operations of police officers while also gaining feedback from the community about their performance, programs, and crime prevention strategies. The one-day academy provides a brief look at the topics covered during the regular 11-week academy.

Contact Information

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SeattlePolice
Twitter: @SeattlePD

Seattle Police Department Headquarters
610 Fifth Ave
Seattle, WA 98124

Additional Resources

1. US Census Bureau, Seattle, WA: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/seattlecitywashington,US/PST045217
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Seattle, WA: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_42660.htm
3. Seattle Police Department: http://www.seattle.gov/police/
4. Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission: https://fortress.wa.gov/cjtc/www/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=39&Itemid=27
5. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm