End paid vacation for cops under probe
Five Honolulu police officers suspected of illegal activity have been on paid leave for nearly nine months.
WHEN the FBI opened an investigation last April of five Honolulu police officers suspected of taking bribes from cockfighting operations, they were suspended without pay
. After the police union complained, Honolulu Chief Boisse Correa went overboard in granting pay to the suspended officers rather than reassigning them to less-sensitive positions.
They are now in their ninth month of what amounts to paid vacation at an estimated cost of a quarter-million dollars and growing. Private employers avoid lengthy suspensions with pay because of their possible perception as reward for bad behavior, and government should act no differently.
The five officers have not been arrested or formally charged, so suspending them without pay, as Correa did initially, might have violated their right to due process. "This is only an investigation, which does not substantiate leave without pay," Alex Garcia, chairman of the State of Hawaii Police Officers' Oahu chapter, said at the time.
An officer suspected of criminal activity obviously should not be kept at the same job because of his access to confidential informants and, in this case, plans for future cockfighting raids. Accordingly, Garcia suggested to the Star-Bulletin's Rod Antone that the officers instead be placed on paid desk duty, presumably far away from that activity.
SHOPO filed a grievance to put the officers on leave with pay status, but Garcia's statement to Antone provided ample expectation of a compromise short of putting them on extended paid vacation. Through a spokeswoman, Correa now says, "When the officers were placed on this leave status, it was never expected for it to be this long."
That is also true in the private sector, where suspensions with pay normally are limited to a few weeks, at most. It is not too late for Correa to put the officers on desk jobs and bring an end to their extended vacations.
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