Seattle Police Don’t Care What Matters For Y’all. Only Goal’s To Keep That Money Flowing.
We've shared with you the Dickensian travails of one Mr. Ron Willis, the starving Seattle police officer who brought home $414,543 in 2019. That's more than any other city employee, including former Police Chief Carmen Best and Mayor Jenny Durkan, who subsists on a salary of $199,593. (If she pinches her pennies, in a few years, she could afford the down payment on a house just outside the city.)
Durkan earns more than 49 out of 50 state governors —including her own (really, we double-checked), which would make sense if she played the mayor on a TV series. California Governor Gavin Newsom just edges her out. Still, hundreds of city employees do even better than Durkan, because it's not just Seattle's traffic that's a fucking mess.
"Only in Seattle do the tree trimmers make $160,000 per year," argued Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of Open the Books.
Tree trimmers, however, perform an essential service, unlike Ron Willis. The Seattle Times recently dug deeper into his personal creative accounting to determine how the patrol officer made twice what Newsom does. Sure, some of that is the standard annual bonus for having never married Kimberly Guilfoyle (we went to Hawaii last year with ours), but it doesn't explain the rest.
Last year, Willis was paid for 4,149 hours of work, not including vacation or sick leave.
That total means he was paid for working an average of 80 hours a week, about twice as many hours as a typical full-time employee. Willis was paid for working between 90 and 123 hours a week for seven weeks straight last summer, according to a Seattle Times analysis of SPD data.
It's strange how the police keep asking for bigger budgets for more cops, and politicians are always eager to approve bigger budgets for more cops because that means less crime or at least more cops. But the existing ones are always working triple shifts, especially the month or so before they retire and their pensions are set.
On six occasions, Willis was compensated for more than 24 hours in a single day, according to the data.
But there's only 24 hours in day. (We double-checked that, as well.) What's going on? Well, contractually, Seattle police officers can be paid for more hours than they physically work, which sounds like an interesting philosophical conundrum but is also real shady. Officers regularly receive “standby" pay for being available in case they're needed to bust the heads of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. However, they're not receiving the premium because they're called away last minute from their kid's birthday party. That's a downer no matter how much you enjoy tear-gassing hippies. They get paid standby when they're already on duty. That's not an oversight or a technical issue. That's a scam.
The police can't confirm if Willis actually worked these overtime hours, physically or metaphysically, because the department "can't effectively track overtime that is still filed on paper forms." This is four years after an audit revealed "widespread potential for inappropriate overtime pay." This is like saying there's widespread potential for corruption in the Trump administration. That potential has been realized.
The city auditor's office in 2016 discovered books more cooked than Bialystock and Bloom's. The audit identified at least 400 potential duplicate overtime payments in 2014 totaling more than $160,000, or about a year of Gretchen Whitmer's time.
The auditor recommended an automated system that would flag any errors or inappropriate overtime, which we're certain were all completely unintentional. Seattle police had no problem endorsing the plan because they had no plans for implementing it. Four years later, there's still no system but the SPD says it should go live “within the next year," and you can take that to the same bank where Willis keeps all his gold doubloons.
According to department spokesperson Lauren Truscott, it's just really hard keeping track of this legitimate organization's finances.
"SPD does not have capacity to manually audit the total weekly hours worked by each of its 2,000 employees," Truscott said. "There is an ongoing project to implement a technology solution to address this issue," she added.
Cops pitch a fit and scream “BLUE LIVES MATTER!" when you kindly ask them not to shoot Black guys in the back. We're supposed to think they're OK with a “technology solution" that would curtail their big-dollar cash-outs? There's no way the SPD will voluntarily “address this issue." They almost revolted when Durkan tried to cut overtime during the COVID-19 pandemic. No one could leave the house! Who was there to
beat up protect everyone from bad guys?
City Council President M. Lorena González — who makes $124,000 a year — has had it with these wiseguys.
"I have been raising concerns about that since I was elected and the reality is that the Police Department effectively has a blank check as it relates to overtime," she said in an interview Tuesday. "We do set a budget every year, but every year it's known that they are going to blow right through that budget."
Yeah, we're not falling for the banana in the tailpipe again. The party needs to end. The police should receive flat salaries, with no overtime, maybe a merit-based bonus if they make it a year without an excessive force complaint. Seattle shouldn't worry about finding enough cops. The city has so many well-trimmed trees.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."