Just last year, the UW Police Department (UWPD) was having issues with retention, possibly due to a “hostile environment,” according to an in-depth article by KOMO News.
One year later, things have improved.
In 2015, when the KOMO article was written, UWPD had approximately 15 patrol officers, according to public informations officer Steve Rittereiser. That number has now increased to 28 officers.
This year, just two officers have left the department, which UW Police Chief John Vinson said equates to a 6.6 percent turnover rate.
“We had a number of things that happened,” Rittereiser said, explaining that a swath of people retired in 2015 while others left for different departments. “So we faced what was essentially a crisis for the number of people we had.”
Rittereiser has been with the UWPD for five years, and said the current amount of patrol officers is the most UWPD has had since he began.
That being said, one issue has been pointed at for years now: UWPD struggles with competitive pay. Officers can earn $600-$800 more a month at another similarly sized agency in King County than at UWPD, according to Rittereiser.
Rittereiser stated the minimum starting salary for a patrol officer is $55,272 this year.
In 2012, the average yearly salary for a UWPD officer was $74,952. That number steadily increased as the years went on, going down once in 2013, to arrive at last year’s average yearly salary: $83,950.
“We continue to be an agency that falls behind our peers right now in terms of pay,” Rittereiser said.
The highest salary among UWPD campus officers last year was approximately $127,500. Rittereiser attributed this to overtime, such as covering special events on campus, like sports games, holidays, and construction projects.
The UWPD is currently negotiating its next contract, which will need ultimate approval from the Office of Financial Management. Campus police officers will likely see “substantial increases in pay,” Rittereiser said, effective July 1, 2017.
“We had officers frustrated with the amount of overtime and hours they had to work,” he said of previous situations. “I think those frustrations have been relieved.”
Currently, most officers work 10 hour shifts, four days a week, Rittereiser said.
Over the summer, while most UW students were away, UWPD was busy moving into its new building. Previously, UWPD occupied a portion of a 26,800 square-foot building and an 8,500 square-foot garage near the fishery department buildings.
The new building, located near Gould Hall on campus, is approximately 29,000 square feet, according to an email from Ken Kubota, who oversaw the project’s implementation. The project’s budget was set at $19.5 million, but needed an additional $196,000 due to finding hazardous materials.
“The forecast is currently at $20.086 million,” Kubota said in the email.
UWPD also held its first Sexual Assault Panel in April. The department, along with Seattle Police and the King County Sheriff, signed a sexual assault Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate responses and services while also providing consistency.
Input, criticism, or complaints relating to UWPD can be sent to Rittereiser, or through the UWPD’s website anonymously or formally.