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Police and Law Enforcement Personnel Management

This page provides information on personnel issues for local law enforcement agencies in Washington State, including pay and benefits, recruitment, training, volunteer and reserve programs, and other topics.


Unlike the majority of a public agency's employees, law enforcement work shifts are scheduled around the clock. They may be subject to civil service rules not applicable to the rest of the staff, making hiring, firing, and day-to-day supervision more of a challenge. In addition, the nature of the work itself places unique pressures on the employees and their families that affect job performance.

Pay and Benefits

Police officers enjoy base salaries above the national average, which can then be augmented by shift differential pay, longevity pay, overtime or comp time, and uniform and/or equipment allowances.  Additionally, police enjoy benefits, retirement packages, and insurance coverage options that usually exceed those offered by private employers.

Law enforcement personnel may have unique overtime provisions; for more information see our page Overtime and Comp Time.



The statutory authority governing the recruitment of law executives and police officers is as follows:

  • RCW 35.21.333 — Lists qualifications for chief of police or marshal  
  • RCW 36.28.025 — Lists qualifications for county sheriff
  • RCW 35.21.334 — Requires background investigations for police officers
  • RCW 43.101.095 — Requires a background investigation for applicants to police officer positions who are given a conditional offer of employment, to include criminal history, disciplinary records, presence on impeachment disclosure lists, past or present affiliation with  a psychological examination,  a polygraph test, and more
  • RCW 43.101.095 — Requires all police officers obtain a peace officer certification as a condition of employment; as part of the certification, requires officers to authorize release to the employing agency the officer’s personnel files, including disciplinary, termination, civil or criminal investigations, or other records related to certification


Training and Assessment

All law enforcement personnel must begin basic training within six months of being hired (RCW 43.101.200) and must complete violence de-escalation training within 15 months of being hired (RCW 43.101.450). Both trainings must comply with standards adopted by the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC).

Training Resources


An “assessment center” is a collection of simulated on-the-job challenges that assess a candidate’s ability to perform the job. Candidates participate individually and in groups in a series of real-life situations they may encounter on the job while being observed and evaluated by experts in policing, supervision, and management. The IACP offers an overview of Testing and Assessment Centers.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) recommends Public Safety Testing as a contractor for assessment center exercises.


Lateral Transfer

Lateral entry/transfer for a police officer is similar to a qualification standard that applicants for certain police department positions must meet in order to be eligible to apply for the position. In general, lateral transfer candidates must already have a certain level of experience in law enforcement and be employed or have been employed by a police department.

Examples of Lateral Transfer Requiring Prior Service for a Specific Time Period

Generally, these examples require applicants to have been employed on a full-time basis for a period of time exceeding 12 consecutive months and not had a lapse of employment for a period exceeding the previous 12 months.

Examples of Lateral Transfers Requiring Experience in Law Enforcement

Some jurisdictions simply require the applicant have general experience in law enforcement but do not specify a time period.

Special Limited Commission/ Community Service Officers

A Community Service Officer (CSO) provides support in crime prevention, investigation, and response where full police powers are unnecessary and assists police officers in upholding law and order. Most CSOs are specially or limited commissioned peace officers and some are non-sworn (civilian) positions without powers of arrest. Most do not carry firearms, due to liability issues, but some are authorized to carry less lethal weapons such as tasers, batons, or pepper spray. All CSOs receive training in self-defense tactics.

Areas that tend to be covered by CSOs can include animal control, parking enforcement, traffic control, and airport, park, and school security.

Examples of Local Codes Allowing for Community Service Officers

Volunteer Programs

In addition to using CSOs to augment their workforce, police departments may also recruit volunteers to serve their communities in a variety of capacities, such as block watch captain or to support the administrative functions of a department. These volunteers do not have powers of arrest. 

Run by the IACP, the Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS) Program is a national resource that provides support and resources to law enforcement agencies interested in developing or enhancing a volunteer program. 

Examples of Local Jurisdictions Offering Volunteer Opportunities

Police Reserves

A reserve police officer (also known as an auxiliary officer) is either a volunteer or paid worker, depending on the circumstance and the department for which they work. They perform law enforcement duties in their community.

City councilmembers may serve as reserve law enforcement officers for the city (as well as volunteer firefighters or volunteer ambulance personnel), but only if approved by a resolution adopted by two-thirds of the city council (RCW 35.21.770/35A.11.110).

Personnel Topics


The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act requires that employers treat pregnancy like an injury or illness that renders the employee temporarily “disabled.”

Examples of Local Policies That Address Pregnancy

  • Seattle Police Department Manual Sec. 4.080 — Allows pregnant employees to request limited duty assignments (per Seattle Municipal Code Sec. 4.10.010), family and medical leave, and pregnancy disability leave. Also allows them to claim long term disability benefits and/or to buy back service credit after they return to regular paid status or separate from employment
  • Medina Police Department Standards Sec. 13.14 — With department approval, a pregnant employee can be assigned to light duty if her physician finds she in unable to “perform full duty” or “at the point where her issue uniform will no longer fit, whichever is first.” Section 13.13 details light duty

Problematic Performance

As with all workplaces, there will be some employees who do not meet performance expectations. Law enforcement is a profession in which ethics and ethical conduct play an important role. Ethical mandates that pertain to law enforcement officers include acting impartially, exercising discretion, using only necessary force, and maintaining confidentiality, integrity, and a professional image at all times. Because law enforcement is a public-facing position, it is critical that departments set clear guidelines as to expected behavior on the job and the repercussions for officers not meeting those requirements.


Domestic Violence Involving Law Enforcement Officers

According to the IACP, domestic violence among law enforcement officers occurs as frequently as among the general population. Resources addressing this issue are as follows:

Job-related Stress and Trauma

Law enforcement officers can be confronted with situations that can create emotional and mental burdens, which can then spillover into family, friends, and coworkers. The following are resources related to different types of stress and/or approaches for supporting law enforcement officers and other first responders. 

Resources for General, Job-related Stress 

Trauma-induced Stress/Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

After a critical or traumatic incident, it is common practice to provide critical incident stress debriefing to first responders, including police. For example, the King County Sheriff’s General Order Manual Section 2.08.025 details the use and format of a critical incident stress debriefing and follows this with suggestions of counseling/support options for those who need additional services, such as the King County Emergency Medical Services or the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Services.

Additional resources are as follows:

Examples of Local Programs Designed to Address Trauma for First Responders

  • Kent Police Department's Peer Support Policy and Program — Discusses the department's Critical Incident Stress Management Response program and the Peer Support Team program for staff
  • Lakewood’s Training Resilient Leaders program — Funded through a Department of Justice grant, this 8-week pilot program is meant to precondition officers to better cope with the stresses inherent in their role as first-responders
  • Renton — Officers are encouraged to use any or all of the following resources: peer support, police chaplain, the city’s Enforcement Assistant Program (EAP), “Safe Call Now” hotline for first responders (206-459-3020) and Copline, which offers a peer-to-peer support line for law enforcement officers (800-267-5463)
  • Redmond — The city contracts with a peer support counselor who is available on-site on a limited basis to supplement the city’s ongoing EAP program. The service has proven quite helpful and the city is considering how to integrate it into the EAP program
  • Whidbey CareNet — This is a nonprofit organization through which local providers offer free mental health and counseling services to relieve the stress and trauma experienced by emergency responders
  • Spokane’s TEAM conference — Organized by the Spokane Police Department’s Mental Health Steering Committee, the focus of this annual event is how best to “serve individuals in crisis," which includes first responders

Chaplaincy Programs

A law enforcement chaplain is clergy with special interest and training for providing pastoral care in law enforcement. The International Conference of Police Chaplains maintains a website with a wealth of information and resources. Locally, the Washington Community Chaplain Corps (WC3) acts as a supplemental agency for incidents of crises and trauma when chaplain resources are limited or nonexistent.

Examples of Local Chaplaincy Programs

Outside Employment

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: February 23, 2024