LIHU‘E — Promotions within the Kaua‘i Police Department have been difficult to fulfill due to pay inversions, and KPD Chief Todd Raybuck believes he’s found a cost-effective solution.
On April 1, an assistant chief will retire, and instead of filling that vacancy within the department, Raybuck will rearrange and reallocate funds within the department’s budget that will increase wages at the top of the department in an effort to both retain and recruit officers into higher-up positions.
As it stands, administrators in the department earn less in wages than unionized officers, he said.
Raybuck has specifically had trouble filling the deputy position, where the base pay $123,000. Under that position is the assistant chief, whose base pay is between $144,000 and $162,000, set by SHOPO (State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers) union collective bargaining. So, accepting a promotion can mean anywhere between a $21,000 to $38,000 pay cut for the candidate.
This salary inversion creates a demotion of sorts, where officers stepping into higher ranks have to accept a lower salary but more responsibility. And since promotions within the department are sequential, it’s difficult to jump rank, Raybuck pointed out at the County Council meeting on March 25 via video.
Raybuck, who stepped into his position about a year ago, has said he took a pay cut to take his position, but that it’s unfair for him to ask others to do the same. He would prefer to promote within his department rather than finding new officers.
“Obviously, my goal would be to appoint a person who is within my organization that has the knowledge and culture and historical institutional knowledge within the organization, and it’s even more important for me since I don’t come from within the organization,” Raybuck said, according to minutes from a Salary Commission meeting earlier this year.
The solution, Raybuck said, would be to bring deputy chief and assistant chief salaries up to be equal to union officer salaries. To account for the pay increases, Raybuck proposed reallocating within the budget by taking the soon-to-be-former assistant chief’s position and turning into an administrative business manager position that can be filled by a civilian.
The current organizational structure includes Raybuck at the top with one deputy chief and three assistant chiefs. This accounts for $717,851 of the KPD budget, he said. For fiscal year 2021, with a chief, one deputy, two assistant deputies, an office business manager and higher wages, this would amount to $717,847.
The chief, however, would not be taking a pay raise, as noted by the council. Raybuck’s base salary is $127,313.
Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa raised his concern, saying this will need to be revisited in the future, as the pay inversion could be unsustainable when looking for Raybuck’s successor.
The council unanimously approved the Salary Commission’s resolution, which will go on to be part of the 2021 budget discussion.
In the last year, the KPD went from 26 officer vacancies to 16, Raybuck said. He cited efforts by Sgt. Darla Nonaka as well as social media, in-person engagement efforts to get out into the community, and recruitment on other islands and on the mainland, for helping to close that gap.
The chief started in his position about a year ago, and by 2021 he hopes to have vacancy numbers down to single digits.
“We’re hiring, and my No. 1 goal is to hire from within this community,” Raybuck said. “That’s what we’re focusing on.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.