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How to Become a Police Officer in Seattle

Seattle is the largest city in Washington with a population of over 680,000.1 Seattle has many attractions that make it a great place to live, from the iconic Space Needle to its beautiful waterfront. The city also has violent and property crime rates that are lower than the average for similarly-sized cities and the US overall.2 The Seattle Police Department (SPD) employs 1,444 sworn officers and 580 civilian employees to keep crime rates low.3 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 serves and protects 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
  • 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 first apply to the department, after which they may be invited to take the physical ability test and civil service test, a multiple choice exam that focuses on memorization, general knowledge, grammar, spelling, and reading comprehension. Applicants who pass these exams must also pass a background investigation and a credit check. Next, candidates may be invited to an oral board interview with a panel of police department representatives. Finally, successful candidates will be invited to the police academy after passing the physical ability test a second time.

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 Carmen Best was sworn in as the Chief of Police for the Seattle Police Department in 2018. Chief Best has over 26 years of experience with the SPD, previously overseeing Patrol Operations, Investigations, Special Operations, and Community Outreach as well as serving as Deputy Chief. Chief Best will receive her master’s in criminal justice leadership from Northeastern University in late 2018 and has also graduated from the Senior Management Institute for Police, the FBI National Academy, and the Criminal Justice Executive Leadership Academy.

Seattle Basic Law Enforcement Academy

All SPD recruits must attend the Seattle Basic Law Enforcement Academy. 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. Graduates from the academy are promoted to the position of Student Officer while they undergo an additional four weeks of in-service field training, following which Student Officers become probationary police officers for the period of one year and are assigned to a patrol district.

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. The department has several special units and teams that cops can work in, including the crisis intervention team, traffic enforcement, parking enforcement, harbor patrol, the canine unit, and SWAT. Officers are eligible to apply to special assignments after three to five years of patrol work.

Following reviews by the Department of Justice, the Seattle Police Department has undergone reforms in recent years designed to address civil and constitutional rights violations. The reforms have successfully reduced the number of use-of-force incidents within the SPD and have improved community perceptions on how well the department is performing overall.4

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. For adults, the SPD offers an 11-week and a one-day Community Police Academy program. 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.

Department Contact Information

610 Fifth Ave
Seattle, WA 98124
(206) 625-5011
SPD Website
SPD Facebook
SPD Twitter

Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook

During police academy training, Seattle police recruits earn $28.99 per hour.3 Following graduation from the police academy, officers earn an annual salary of $81,444 per year, which is increased to $87,336 after six months and to $91,308 after 18 months of service.3 With regular increases thereafter, patrol officers earn a base salary of $106,632 after 54 months of service.3 Benefits available to SPD officers include longevity pay increases and pay incentives for special assignments and the use of body-worn cameras, as well as health and life insurance and generous paid time off. Officers receive retirement pay calculated at 2% of their final average salary multiplied by their years of service; officers are vested after five years of service and are eligible to retire with full benefits at the age of 53 with 20 years of service.3

The average annual salary for cops in the Seattle metropolitan area was $85,500 in 2017.6 The number of law enforcement officers in Washington is projected to increase by 10.5% between now and 2026, equating to an average of 104 new law enforcement jobs created per year.7 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 police jobs board.

Cities and Police Departments Near Seattle

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,880 police and sheriff’s patrol officers work in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area.5 This includes officers working for major area departments including the Seattle Police Department as well as officers working for smaller cities such as Kirkland and Shoreline and officers working for other law enforcement agencies, such as the King County Sheriff’s Office. The following table outlines the larger police departments near Seattle with information on police employment and crime rates.

CityForce Name/AbbreviationCity Population7Police Dept. Total Employees8Sworn Officers8Civilian Staff8Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People9Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People9
BellevueBellevue Police Department (BPD)144,444215175400.9632.1
EverettEverett Police Department (EPD)103,019226187394.754.4
RedmondRedmond Police Department (RPD)54,14412379441.535.8
RentonRenton Police Department (RPD)90,927146117293.763.3
SeattleSeattle Police Department (SPD)744,9551,9461,38456258519
TacomaTacoma Police Department (TPD)198,3973713363510.169.4

Additional Resources

References:
1. Sperling’s Best Places, Seattle, WA: https://www.bestplaces.net/city/washington/seattle
2. US News & World Report Best Places to Live, Seattle, WA: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/washington/seattle/crime
3. Seattle Police Department: http://www.seattle.gov/police/
4. The Seattle Times, “Timeline of Seattle Police Reform,” 10 Jan. 2018: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/timeline-of-seattle-police-reform/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_42660.htm
6. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
7. US Census Bureau, QuickFacts, Seattle: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045218
8. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-26/table-26.xls/view
9. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-6/table-6.xls/view