Police get 6 percent salary increase

Citing it as a “good start,” Kaua‘i Police Department Assistant Chief Roy Asher commended union negotiators for nailing down an annual 6 percent salary increase and differentials for police over the next four years.

“It will help us to parity our western counterparts,” Asher said.

That was the idea behind the police salary increases, combined with additional fringe benefits for which negotiators battled, Bryson Ponce, Kaua‘i chapter union chair, said.

Offering salaries commensurate with the value of the candidates Hawai‘i is trying to hire for law enforcement is intended to help recruit and retain police who might otherwise be lured to the Mainland for better wages, Ponce said.

“We hope it will help compensate officers so that they’re not leaving for better pay in other jurisdictions,” he said.

The new salaries negotiated by the State of Hawai‘i Organization of Police Officers for the Kaua‘i Police Department officers were made official yesterday.

The increases are slated to roll out July 1, and will continue to grow by 6 percent annually through June 30, 2011.

As it stands now, KPD officers in their first-year make $39,000, while patrol officers make about $42,000. Sergeants and lieutenants make $45,000 and $53,650, respectively. Those salaries were negotiated four years ago, Ponce said.

Pleased with this year’s arbitration, Ponce cited the progress SHOPO made as the strongest to date.

“It is by far the best award we’ve ever had, since SHOPO started in 1971,” Ponce said. “We’re very excited and happy.”

Other “differentials” or fringe benefits for which SHOPO was able to bargain include increases in meal compensation, per-diem travel allowances, weapon and uniform allowances and bonuses for those who might otherwise retire.

Meal compensation went up in three different areas, Ponce said. For those in category 1, it increased from $8 to $10, while for those in category 2, it increased from $3.25 to $8. Meal compensation in category 3 increased from $3 to $6, Ponce said.

The categories into which officers fall for meal compensation depend on how much overtime they have clocked for that time period, Ponce said, noting that, essentially, those who have had the least time for themselves are offered the highest rate — category 1.

“It’s intended for those who are asked to come in for a 24-hour shift on a moment’s notice and haven’t had time to bring in a lunch,” Ponce said.

Grateful for the increase for the department, Asher said, “They’re now going to be rightfully compensated.”

Also making the list of fringe-benefit increases are in-state per diem rates, which went from $80 to $90 per day.

Out-of-state per-diem allowances increased from $130 to $145 dollars.

SHOPO also was able to hash out a more attractive situation for officers when it comes to weapons and uniforms, Ponce said.

Money to cover the requisite used to come out of the standard of conduct account differential, Ponce said, which in layman’s terms refers to the per-hour bonus all officers have the potential to earn over the course of a year.

That small bonus money — which was just increased from $1 per hour to $1.20 per hour — will now officially stay in a separate category, he said.

That means the 2,080 hours an officer works within a year will be compensated with an additional $2,496 annually.

“(The standard of conduct differential) is supposed to compensate police for being held to a higher standard all the time,” Ponce said. “They are required to have a presence in the public, which includes acting appropriately and to assist others whether working or not.”

Weapons and uniforms will now be covered by an additional $720 stipend, he said.

Also embedded in the new contract is a longevity clause that will provide those who have served the department for 25 years with an automatic 4.3 percent raise — intended to make retiring less attractive, Ponce said.

“That’s never been in there before,” he said. “We’re trying to retain some of the those who might be thinking about leaving in June. They might reconsider because come July 1, they’ll get that extra pay.”

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