Chief search mired in red tape

Nearly a year after the Kaua‘i Police Department lost its permanent police chief, red tape is the reason active recruiting for the open position hasn’t begun, police commissioners said yesterday.

The top-law enforcement spot has been in need of a new hire since June, when former Police Chief K.C. Lum retired.

Acting Police Chief Clayton Arinaga has worked the position in the interim.

Though tasked with the responsibility of finding the best candidate for the job, police commissioners said their hands have been somewhat tied in expediting the process, as the entity is at the mercy of several lengthy county processes.

Meeting the burden of such bureaucracy has engaged the commissioners in a back-and-forth with the county.

Getting the search started in itself has been a 10-month long process so far, that’s included getting the county’s approval for the $50,000 price-tag of hiring a recruiting firm, soliciting and accepting bids from the out-sourced consultants and awaiting the approval from the County Attorney’s office of the language within the contract to secure that firm.

By February, commissioners had selected California-based CPS Human Resource Services, a government agency, to recruit candidates, but inking the deal took roughly another month.

Also saddling the process has been the county’s need to consider the legality of imposing Hawai‘i-residency requirements as a requisite to apply for the police chief position. That proposed stipulation has caught the attention of ACLU attorneys, who have said state-residency requirements are unconstitutional.

The next hoop to jump through is getting approval from the salary commission to increase the new chief’s pay by 25 percent to $93,000. That issue will come up before the Salary Commission Wednesday.

“Hopefully they’ll expedite this and get it going,” Police Commission Chair Russell Grady said at yesterday’s Police Commission meeting.

Offering a competitive salary is integral, Commissioner Thomas Iannucci said, alluding to what he termed as a shallow “pool of candidates.”

The hurdles come at a particularly tough time for the KPD, say commissioners, as a short-staffed crew is faced with an unrelenting crime caseload coupled with the challenge of finding ways to retain recruits and beef-up the force.

Stuck in a constant game of catch-up, efforts to augment the KPD has become maintaining status quo, as despite the recent recruit graduates, a handful of police officers has also retired.

Though the salary commission will determine what the island’s future police chief will make per year, unions help decide the pay-rate for officers of lesser rank. Officers in their first-year make roughly $39,000, while patrol officers make about $42,000. Sergeants make roughly $45,000 while lieutenants make $53,650.

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