LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Police Department employs up to 162 sworn officers, and now it’s closer to that number than it has ever been in recent history.
“Today we’re at eight vacancies in the department, which is the first time that I’m aware of that we’ve been in single-digit vacancies in KPD history,” KPD Chief Todd Raybuck said at the Kaua‘i Police Commission’s Friday meeting.
“We couldn’t do that without the hard work and commitment of everyone that’s responsible for participating in that training,” he said.
The department has bolstered its ranks through a streamlined hiring process and an increased number of training classes, he said.
Staff attrition caused by routine retirements and resignations is a longstanding problem for the department, according to Raybuck, who said it takes over one year to put a new officer on the street.
“Recruitment, training and replacement takes anywhere from 15 to 17 months to complete,” Raybuck said. “It’s not like a lot of other occupations, unfortunately, where somebody puts an application today, you screen them tomorrow and they start on Friday.”
KPD’s 93rd recruit class completed training on June 23. Its 94th and 95th recruit classes began training days later. This accelerated recruitment regime is key to maintaining a sizeable police force, according to Raybuck, who said KPD has operated an “unprecedented” number of back-to-back classes, with five in the past two years.
The chief stressed his team has not cut corners to combat attrition. Rather, it has refined an inefficient employee-intake process.
“We did not reduce any qualifications. We did not shortcut any of the operations that we go through to do backgrounds and confirm whether or not a candidate is is the right fit for us,” Raybuck said on Friday.
“But there were redundancies. We recognized there was no need for someone to rephrase and resubmit what had already been done.”
KPD changed its written test at the start of 2021. At that time, the department reported five small test groups that utilized the new exam averaged an 81.3% pass rate. KPD’s pass rate in 2020 was 58%. In 2019, it was 64%.
Raybuck reminded the commission that addressing staff attrition is a perpetual process. His department projects up to eight additional vacancies by year’s end.
“Our single-digit vacancy today, by December, may be doubled,” he said. “We have to continuously work on this cycle. It just never stops. If we take the foot off the gas, we’re going to stall and we’ll be pushing the car down the road like we were before.”
The County Council approved the terms of a lease between Kaua‘i County and Hale Kaua‘i Ltd. for a warehouse and office building on Wednesday, July 21. The building will be used by KPD to consolidate police training administration and operations into a single location, according to the council meeting agenda.
Scott Yunker, general assignment reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.