Graphic design firms that offer digital solutions to police departments have seen a sharp increase in revenue, and are increasingly using the funds to pay vendors, a new report finds.
The practice is known as “proprietary contracting” and it is particularly prevalent among the Seattle Police Department, according to the report.
In fiscal year 2017, Graphic Design Group, a Seattle-based firm that provides digital services to the Seattle police, earned $4.4 million from the Seattle city government, a 17 percent increase over the previous year.
The company has been paid $5.4 per employee since it started working with the department in February 2017.
Graphic Design has been providing digital services for the city since April 2019, according a company representative.
A spokeswoman for the Seattle Department of Finance and Economic Development said the department has not seen any increase in contract revenue, but did not provide details on how many contracts were signed.
“In our experience, contractors are paid by the contract,” said spokeswoman Amy O’Brien.
“If they don’t get paid by contract, they are free to work for another vendor.
If they do get paid, they get paid fairly.”
The increase in Graphic Design’s contract revenue follows a spike in the company’s usage.
Since January 2017, the company has added more than 100 employees to its Seattle office, a 40 percent increase compared to the previous fiscal year.
Graphic Designer Solutions, which is owned by Graphic Design Associates, has also seen a jump in revenue.
The firm’s annual revenue has increased from $2.4 to $4 million since the fiscal year ended in September.
Since the start of the fiscal quarter, Graphic Designer has added an additional 15 employees, a 37 percent increase from the previous quarter, according the report, which was conducted by consulting firm IBISWorld.
In Seattle, Graphic designer work is also being offered by the company to other agencies and other firms, said spokeswoman Michelle Baca.
The revenue for the last year is expected to be in the neighborhood of $1.8 million, Baca said.
A contract with the Seattle department is not necessarily a bad thing.
Many police departments are seeking solutions that can help them manage large crowds of protesters and other large events, according Baca, who added that the city’s police union has pushed for more transparency around the use of the agency’s budget.
The report is based on the Seattle Public Employees’ Compensation Commission’s 2016 report on contracts for graphic design services, which found that the industry has seen a significant uptick in revenue and employment in recent years.