Rising numbersThe Honolulu Police Department says new recruit classes are starting to ease a shortage of uniformed officers.
of recruits help
stem shortage of
More than 600 applied
for the police recruit
class in December
By Nelson Daranciang
The department has been trying to get back to full staffing since 1994, when 147 veterans took advantage of an early retirement option.
The department had been accepting four classes a year of recruits, but is cutting that back to three classes because they are catching up with attrition, said Maj. Glen Kajiyama, Honolulu Police Human Resources Division.
There are 51 recruits in the department's 139th recruit class, which started last week.
"Even though we're catching up, we're still looking for qualified applicants," Kajiyama said.
More than 600 people submitted applications by last Friday's deadline to take part in the next class, which begins in December.
An initial review of the applications usually reveals that many are not qualified. Of the remaining applicants, only 10 percent who take the police exam pass.
Psychological evaluations, background checks, personal history interviews and polygraph exams reduce the number even further.
"Our target is 60 per recruit class," Kajiyama said. Attrition averages about 119 per year, Kajiyama said. He said two classes a year should keep up with attrition and the third class will address the shortage.
And not all the recruits who begin the department's 18-month training program finish it to become sworn officers. As of May 31 the department reported 41 of its 2,034 uniformed positions vacant.
But that figure is misleading, since the department counted 211 recruits among its number of uniformed officers. Recruits do not take on the responsibilities of a uniformed officer until about a year into their training.
The early-retirement option offered to police and other state and county employees in 1994 was designed as a cost-cutting measure.
But the savings has been offset by overtime expenditures.
"Twenty percent of overtime costs is due to personnel shortage," said Maj. Susan Ballard of the finance division.
The department also blames the shortage for its inability to adequately staff the $13.5 million, 1-year-old Kapolei Police Station.