Seattle-area suitors try to lure HPD officers
Recruiters hope to capitalize on possible scheduling changes
Washington police recruiters are looking to take advantage of upheaval at the Honolulu Police Department where officers are upset over the chief's plan to cancel a popular work schedule.
Recruiters for the Federal Way Police Department plan to be in town March 28-30 to conduct written and oral tests for anyone interested in filling up to 16 police officer positions in the Puget Sound area.
Federal Way police recruiters said they have been in touch with HPD officers and heard many were disgruntled about an announcement by Chief Boise Correa last month that the department was doing away with officers working three-day, 12-hour shifts and four-day, 10-hour shifts.
"We have former HPD officers here, and they network with the guys back home and they're all upset over this," said Federal Way police officer and recruiter Jim Nelson. "And we have a four (day), 10-hour work week.
"I'd say the shift is nearly as good as a three/12."
The three-day schedule for HPD officers started in 1997 as a pilot project and went islandwide in 2000. Police union officials said the schedule became very popular as it allowed officers to work second jobs.
"That's how a majority of these guys were recruited: Because of the low pay, the three/12 would allow them to work special duty or a get a second job to support their families," said Detective Alex Garcia, Oahu Chapter chairman for the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.
"So I don't doubt there will be a large number of them looking for other options, absolutely," Garcia said.
In explaining why the department wanted to get rid of the three/12 shifts, Correa said 10- or 12-hour days can leave officers fatigued and "not as alert as they should be," potentially putting themselves and others in danger. In at least one instance, he said, fatigue contributed to a car accident involving an officer.
Correa said the switch back to the five-day, eight-hour schedule is set for late June or early July.
In response to news that Federal Way was recruiting locally, HPD officials said the scheduling change is still under discussion with the union.
Deputy Chief Paul Putzulu said HPD's administration is scheduled to meet with the union March 1 and 2. He said the administration "would be open to discussions to everything that involves going into a five/eight schedule."
As far as reports of low morale in the department over the schedule change, Putzulu said, "If there is a morale issue, it hasn't been brought to us yet."
He said recruiting by mainland and neighbor island police departments is a "continuing battle we face."
Putzulu said Honolulu cannot compete with the higher pay offered by some mainland police departments, such as San Jose, Calif., which recently tried to recruit HPD officers by offering a starting pay of $70,000.
Starting pay for Honolulu officers is $37,500. After four years they receive $42,240. (The current contract expires in 2007.)
Nelson said the Federal Way Police Department consists of 119 officers in a town about 25 miles south of downtown Seattle. Starting pay begins at $49,368, though an officer with five years of comparable police experience elsewhere can be bumped to $63,072 a year.
"The cost of living is less, and the base pay is more," Nelson said. "We have 10 officers from Hawaii already, and they're all homeowners."
Nelson is one of them.
Originally a reserve officer from California, he moved to Oahu and was a police officer from 1999 to 2002. He has worked both the five-day work shift and three-day shift.
Though he loved living in Hawaii, he said after a while he had to move to make ends meet for his family. Now, he said, he is one of 10 former Hawaii officers -- nine from Honolulu and one from Maui -- who call Federal Way home.
"In a perfect world I'd live in Hawaii," Nelson said. "I love Hawaii; I think it's the best place on earth. However, you get tired. You get worn down working overtime, working special duty, sitting in court on your days off -- it just wears you out after a while."
Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.