Make it easier for HPD to hire officers from mainland
The city auditor reports that obstacles keep the Honolulu Police Department from hiring experienced officers from the mainland.
THE Honolulu Police Department tries little to recruit officers from the mainland, but existing disincentives would make any more effort wasteful. A report by the city auditor
says the department is "in the brainstorming phase" of entering the nationwide competition for police officers. It is past time to enter the next phase, remove the barriers and lure experienced mainland officers to Honolulu.
The report by City Auditor Leslie I. Tanaka tells of a former New York police officer with 20 years of experience joining Honolulu's finest, but that was rare. HPD requires all new hires to undergo six months of academy training, four more months of field training and a nearly yearlong screening and background checking process. "Very few career police officers would make such a sacrifice," Tanaka wrote.
The rising demand for police officers comes at a time when baby boomers are beginning to retire and security issues remain hot with the ongoing war against terrorism. Eighty percent of the nation's 17,000 law enforcement agencies have vacancies they cannot fill, the report says.
The nation was projected to need 37,700 new police officers between 2002 and 2012, in addition to the 30,300 needed to replace officers retiring or changing jobs. In the past five years, Honolulu has averaged a shortfall of 173 police officers a year in a department of about 2,000 positions, according to Tanaka's report.
Seamless moves from one police department to another are allowed in California by a state certification body that sets minimum selection and training standards. A state also may have agreements with other states to accept their certified officers as transfers.
Resulting competition among police departments for experienced officers already is fierce, with such incentives as shorter training periods and reimbursement of moving expenses. Most common is the signing bonus, ranging from $1,500 in Prescott, Ariz., to $12,500 proposed by the chief of police in West Covina, Calif. Oregon's Army National Guard is offering bonuses of $20,000 for filling military police jobs.
HPD is left on the outside of this activity, partly because of its reluctance to accept an officer who is not familiar with Hawaii's criminal laws. For example, the audit points out, Hawaii's laws restricting search and seizure or an officer's use of force "tend to be less intrusive in Hawaii than in some mainland states, where officers have broader authority to perform actions such as opening the trunk of someone's car." It should not take 10 months of academy and field training to learn those differences.
Only two Honolulu police officers are assigned to recruitment, with $40,000 for advertising and no budget for travel, while comparable mainland departments have recruitment budgets in six figures. HPD's effort should be expanded and energized after the department is realistically able to compete with mainland police departments for experienced officers.