Help wanted: Edmonds police scrambling to fill numerous openings

Wanted: police officers in Edmonds

– 7 line officers

– 2 assistant chiefs

– 5-plus civilians

The upheaval from last year’s police chief search, retirements, new police reform laws and COVID have left the department seriously short of staff. Edmonds is not alone. Many departments – locally and nationally – are critically understaffed. At full staffing levels, Edmonds should have 58 officers and commanders and 13 civilian employees. Chief Michelle Bennett has said that hiring is the department’s number-one priority. Two staffers are working full time to find and vet new candidates.

Departments throughout Washington, some of them for the first time, are offering ‘signing bonuses’ to lure experienced officers as well as rookies. Everett is offering $20,000, Seattle $25,000, Mukilteo has put up $15,000. Edmonds does not offer a signing bonus – yet. Chief Bennett has said that she is working with the City Council, the Mayor and Human Resources to create a bonus pool; “to at least be competitive.” The Council would make a final decision on any signing bonus.

Renton police signing bonus ad

Complicating Edmonds’ search are new police reform laws passed this year. ”Our laws really became national news as some of the most restrictive police reform laws in in the nation.” Acting Assistant Chief Josh McClure told us.

McClure believes that label – “some of the most restrictive police reform laws in the nation” – deters officers from other states from applying to EPD. One of the new laws limits an officer’s ability to chase suspects. Another creates new definitions of “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause,” which also make it harder for police to stop potential suspects.

Chief Bennett recently told a public forum at the Edmonds Civic Roundtable that “reasonable suspicion” — an officer’s professional hunch – is no longer enough to stop a person they believe might be a suspect; that “probable cause” —  evidence of a connection to a crime — is the new benchmark for stopping someone. Bennett said she hopes lawmakers will reconsider some of the perhaps unintended consequences of the new laws, adding “it is a huge safety deal; you’re putting people at risk.”

McClure said “the worst part of this whole thing is having to tell your community you’re not allowed to do some of the things” that police have been able to do in the past. He acknowledged that it is sometimes taking longer to respond to calls, but that “officers have done an incredible job within the confines of the new laws to make this work.”

The state’s approach to COVID vaccinations may also be affecting new hires from out of state. EPD does not have a vaccine mandate but follows state rules that require all public employees be vaccinated. Last month, Alaska State Troopers held a recruiting drive to try to lure away Seattle-area officers; among the incentives to move north – signing and moving bonuses and no vaccine mandates in Alaska.

Edmonds says it is moving as quickly as it can to bring the department up to full staff. But the hiring and training process takes time. From a first interview with a candidate to a job offer takes about 53 days, McClure told us. There are interviews, oral exams, background checks, polygraph tests, medical and psychological checks.

Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett

Bennett told the Civic Roundtable that the department is not “changing any hiring standards at all”; that stringent background checks are very important. As an example of that, she said, the department recently had a pool of forty candidates – but only 2 passed background checks. The department is interviewing two finalists for the open assistant chief slots vacated when Jim Lawless left for a job in Marysville and Don Anderson retired. Two more officers are scheduled to retire after the first of the year.

On the civilian side, there are openings for two records clerks, an animal control/parking enforcement staffer, and an additional part-time parking position. Edmonds recently lost the department’s Domestic Violence Coordinator as well.

Click here for Edmonds Police recruiting information.

The newest rookie officer Edmonds hired was last summer — Mason Weisberg, a Navy veteran who lives in Everett. He is now in police academy at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. It is a five-month course, and many candidates now must wait several more months just to get a slot in the academy. Bennett says it can take almost a year between hiring a new officer, getting them through training and ready to hit the street.

Edmonds was lucky with another new hire who had already graduated from police academy training in Spokane before she moved here. That, said McClure, saved the department months of waiting time. She is going through field training now, but it will be several more weeks before she is assigned to patrol on her own.

The department also must meet or exceed competitors pay scale at a time when hundreds of cops have left jobs across the Northwest.

Edmonds police Ppay scale:

-Rookie – $6,185/month

-Lateral hires/experienced officers – $7,500/month + incentives

-Corporal – $9,000/month (top of pay grade)

-Sergeant – $10,000/month (top of pay grade)

There will be more pay changes coming. The city is currently conducting a salary study and will add a new middle management position of  commander as suggested in last year’s police audit. The department is also looking at providing other incentives such as additional time off and vacation accrual.

Edmonds had hired seven new officers in 2018 and another six in 2019, but only brought aboard three last year when COVID shut down all hiring. As this city strives to get back to full staffing, McClure said that police departments statewide are “all in the same boat; a ton of people decided this past year to leave, retire or move out of state. Now, we’re all fighting over the same qualified applicants.”

— By Bob Throndsen



  1. Why would any clear-thinking person want to become a police officer in Washington State or for that matter, any city in America? Think about what has happened in law enforcement since the summer of 2020. The elimination of bail, the changes in felonies into misdemeanors, the vilification of the police to name a few. Yes, there is a shortage of officers and why wouldn’t there be? Attracting high quality candidates is proving very difficult to replace the huge numbers of experienced officers that have had enough of all this “reimagining” nonsense that has proven to be a failure. And as this is the case, crime in almost all categories continues to rise, particularly murder. As so many have vilified the police, tied their hands with new restrictive laws governing their ability to protect themselves and the citizens they serve, officers are leaving.
    Contrary to so many political and social justice types, fewer officers on the streets means more crime on the streets. What a shock, who would have thought that!? This well-written article points out just how difficult an officer’s job is and many factors that make it so. Defunding the police became a rallying cry and now you got what you deserve. When you make the police officer the criminal and the criminal the good guy and eliminate consequences for law breaking, this is what you get. Long response times to 911 calls, increase crimes committed and a reduction in the safety of the citizens in the community.

    As the wealthier upscale communities continue to vote for those who advocate defunding police departments and reducing consequences for committing crimes, the low-income and minority communities are the ones who suffer. But when the crime they have been a part of causing by their support of this reimagining nonsense comes to their doorsteps, watch them howl about poor police response and protection.

    The police in Edmonds are like the vast majority of officers in America, dedicated to serving the community with respect for our constitutional rights and enforcing the laws to ensure a safe community for all.

    Back the Blue!

    1. Every word you said is true. I agree with you completely and it must stop now. I live near that dairy queen and the idea that our police aren’t even allowed to follow and try to arrest is ridiculous. Change these things and we can get more applications for good police people. And frankly I don’t think they make even close to as much as they should for an income in this city!! I think we need to raise the pay at all levels. We need to let them do their jobs. We need to thank them for wanting to do their jobs…This is a mess and we must fix it. I am hoping that the new city council will see this and we will vote for change.

  2. Mark,

    I also agree with all you have stated.
    All these citizens and politicians who support this, “no common sense” agenda and programs, will not hesitate to call, “911” when they need help.

  3. When only 2 out of 40 applicants make it through the hiring process the issue isn’t the applicants, it’s the hiring process. Time to realize we’re no longer living in the 1950s and adjust the process to realistically reflect today’s society.

    1. Thank you for your comment Jeff Gramling. Senate Bill 5051 which went into effect 7/25/2021 specifically calls that LE agencies conduct more thorough background examinations. Fortunately, at EPD we were already meeting these standards and also in compliance with the WASPC Accreditation requirements. These efforts allow us to tell our community that we are working from the beginning to bring on the most qualified and well-vetted applicants to serve the city.

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