Why does it sometimes take Kaua’i Police officers an hour to respond to an incident?
The Kaua’i Police Department’s roster is still short of officers, while the department continues to lose officers to the private sector, and to higher-paying Mainland-based police departments.
Officers who leave for other states generally cite the same reasons, according to Chief George Freitas: better pay and a lower cost of living.
Freitas, after continued correspondence with the states other police chiefs, has sent Deputy Chief Willy Ihu to the collective bargaining table with SHOPO, Hawai’i’s police labor union.
Ihu noted that lobbying legislators for a pay increase for officers is a good step, but the state would also have to look at raises for other employees in different departments.
“Somebody needs to step back and say, ‘where are the critical spots, and which are hard to fill,'” Freitas said, naming public school teachers as another example.
“Mainland cops make 40 percent average more than Hawai’i cops – and being that the cost of living is less up there, it’s hard to hold them back,” Ihu said.
Starting pay for a county police officer in Hawai’i is $31,812.
The KPD is aiming for a 5 percent vacancy rate, but Freitas said the current figure is closer to 13 percent.
The police commission has already asked the Civil Service Commission, Personnel Services, for assistance in overhauling testing and hiring practices.
The commission is contacting Governor Linda Lingle, Mayor Bryan Baptiste and state legislators on the issue.
The commission also discussed the department’s Take Home Cars program. Freitas instituted the program in 2000 to bolster community support of police officers and reduce response time to incidents. The program has also reduced vehicle maintenance costs to the county and helped instill officers with more pride.
Prior to the changeover of the Kusaka administration to the Baptiste administration, former County Attorney Hartwell Blake created a requirement for police officers who sign up for individual permits to take their cars home, citing liability concerns, according to Freitas.
Upon learning of this modification, Freitas approached Mayor Baptiste to revoke the rule change.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei @pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).