Mainland gains anotherBy Jaymes K. Song
The former head of Hawaii's police officer union has joined the Portland, Ore., Police Department and will be sworn in tomorrow, officials said.
Bennie Atkinson III is one of the highest-ranking Honolulu officers among those departing for departments in the Pacific Northwest.
"He has lots of experience and hopefully he'll come in with a good attitude to learn new things," said Mark White, a Portland recruiting officer.
Atkinson, 47, retired July 1 at the rank of lieutenant after 27 years with the Honolulu Police Department and as president of the 2,600-member State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.
Atkinson, who could not be reached for comment, begins the training academy following his swearing-in. He will be ranked a "first-year officer" because Portland does not offer a transfer program in which an officer can retain his rank.
He will earn $38,230 from the Portland Police Department in his first year, as well as his HPD retirement pay. After five years with Portland, Atkinson and his classmates will earn more than $51,000 a year, which is about $5,000 less than his base salary as an HPD lieutenant. He will be able to retire from the Portland department after five years.
Atkinson is the 14th police officer from Hawaii to join Portland's ranks this year.
Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue's office and SHOPO had no comment on Atkinson's move.
This year, at least 32 other HPD officers have joined mainland departments.
Meanwhile, Portland officials today announced they will return next month for another recruiting visit to fill their 40 vacancies caused by retirements.
White described Hawaii as a gold mine. The city recruited more officers from the islands than any other state.
"The bottom line is, Hawaii has to pay their people more," White said.