LIHUE — The recruitment pool for police officers on island has dried up and the Kauai Police Department is looking at creative ways to hire new ones.
Earlier this week, KPD began airing a television commercial to build interest from neighbor islands.
The video, which costs $2,500 to create, features Kauai officers inviting new recruits to join them. At the end of the video, Police Chief Darryl Perry asks interested individuals to “come live life pono” and “to join our ohana.”
And last Monday, police officers were at a job fair at Kauai Community College recruiting applicants.
KPD Lt. Rod Green said they were able to speak to roughly 50 people during the fair for the available positions of police services officer and emergency services dispatcher.
There is a reason police are reaching out.
Over four years, KPD has hired only 2.4 percent of the 2,243 applicants who have come forward, according to recent statistics from the department.
One problem was that the process used to take longer than it does now, not because of lack of police efforts, said county spokeswoman Sarah Blane.
“Over the course of the past four years, KPD has streamlined its recruitment/hiring process to a 6-to-8-month period, down from a roughly three-and-a-half-year process,” Blane said. “In working in partnership with KPD, the Human Resources Department has also been critical to streamlining the hiring process.”
Since 2012, KPD has hired 80 new staff, including 53 new police services officers, 15 radio dispatchers, five clerks, three crime scene specialists, one evidence custodian, one IT specialist, one fleet coordinator and one accountant trainee.
The force also has two K9 units, Simon and Tora.
“One of the most important yet challenging aspects of running a successful police department is hiring qualified individuals who are motivated and prepared for police work,” Perry said. “With the help of the administration, County Council, Human Resources Department and our internal team, we have been successful in improving our recruitment process.”
Eighty-three percent of applicants were invited to take KPD’s written exam since 2012, but only 37 percent actually did.
Of the 693 applicants who took the written exam, 429 passed.
Several reasons indicate why applicants were not a good fit for KPD, according to statistics from the department. One hundred and 14 applicants did not pass the psychological exam, 43 applicants did not pass the physical readiness standards test and 19 did not continue because of illegal drug use.
Forty-eight applicants did not continue the process because of issues with their background check or problems with integrity, statistics show.
The Kauai Police Department, which has 152 officers — 94 of them patrol officers — is understaffed. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, a police department requires 2.3 police officers per 1,000 population. Kauai county has 71,735 residents, which means KPD needs about 165 officers.
“As our statistics show, only a small fraction of interested individuals become police officers, which is why it was necessary to focus on recruitment,” Blane said.
KPD is recruiting for its 88th class. As of early March, 68 candidates had applied but only 19 had passed the written exam.
But, success is not easy to gauge until people actually apply, Blane said.
Human resources does survey applicants to ask how they heard about the job posting, which helps the department determine what efforts may be more successful than others, Blane said.
An entry level police services officer with KPD would make a little more than $57,000 a year, which is more than the national average of about $44,000, according to figures in 2013 from the U.S. DOJ.
KPD continues to look at opportunities to increase the number of patrol officers while maintaining fiscal responsibility, Blane said.
These efforts will be detailed at KPD’s budget presentation to council, which is scheduled for Monday.