Chehalis Police Department to Offer $20,000 Hiring Incentives to Experienced Applicants Amid Hiring Woes


In an effort to attract qualified police officers, the Chehalis Police Department will begin offering extra money to applicants who already have their policing credentials.

The idea behind the incentive program is to give experienced “lateral” applicants a chunk of the money the department saves from not having to send them to the police academy, which takes five to six months and costs the department roughly $26,000 in wages and fees per officer, according to Police Chief Randy Kaut.

“It’s for trying to draw in experienced officers from other agencies,” Kaut said at the city council’s Oct. 25 meeting, where he presented a proposal for the incentive program.

The program, which was approved by the Chehalis City Council this week, will grant lateral applicants who sign an agreement to stay with the department for at least three years a $20,000 bonus over a two-year period. They will get $8,000 at the time they’re hired, $6,000 at the end of the first year and another $6,000 at the end of the second year.

If the officer leaves the department or is terminated within that three-year period, they would be required to pay back the incentive money.

While the city councilors debated whether the dollar amount was a suitable incentive for officers, with Mayor Dennis Dawes suggesting starting at a lower $15,000 and raising it if needed and Councilor Daryl Lund advocating for $25,000, they agreed the program was a smart move for the police department.

“I just think it’s innovative to be the first in this area to do this and I think it’ll bring some benefits. I think it’ll bring some officers,” Dawes said.

The Chehalis Police Department is the first law enforcement agency in Lewis County to launch an incentive program to aid in recruitment efforts, but the idea is becoming more popular around the state as many agencies struggle with low staffing levels.

The Seattle Police Department recently announced new incentive bonuses of up to $25,000 for new or experienced officers. The Everett and Marysville police departments are each offering up to $20,000 hiring incentives. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office is offering lateral recruits $15,000 bonuses.

“It’s something that we’ve never seen before in law enforcement,” said Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham of agencies offering incentives as a recruitment tool.

The Centralia Police Department is not currently offering incentives to lateral applicants, but Denham said the department has considered looking into it in the future.

Like other law enforcement agencies in Washington, Denham said the Centralia Police Department is struggling to recruit new officers.

“It’s a scary time to look at law enforcement as a possible career and it didn’t used to be,” Denham said.

While Lewis County’s local law enforcement agencies haven’t yet had to deal with vaccine mandates, agencies are struggling to recruit and retain officers due to the current political climate surrounding policing in Washington, local officials say.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has had deputies leave the department due to the police accountability laws that went into effect June 25, according to Sheriff Rob Snaza.

“Getting officers right now is very challenging,” he said.

The sheriff’s office is not offering incentives like the Chehalis Police Department to lateral applicants, but Snaza said lateral hirees often start at a higher level on the pay grid based on their prior experience.

Much of the sheriff’s office’s recruitment, Snaza said, is focused on attracting and training young locals with an interest in serving their community. The department has had success in recruiting corrections officers and allowing them to apply for deputy positions after a couple years at the jail.

“I commend them (Chehalis Police Department) for thinking outside of the box,” Snaza said. “That’s what it takes to recruit good officers.”