Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, October 19, 1998

Men and women
in blue need
more green

FOR goodness sake. Am I the only person panicked to the max that police recruiters from Oregon and Washington state have brazenly come to Honolulu to woo away our officers? Am I the lone person less concerned about the elections than the fact that some of our finest men and women in blue will soon be patrolling suburbs on the mainland, because they can earn thousands of dollars more, enjoy a lower cost of living, pay less in taxes and send their kids to better public schools there?

Honestly. Am I the only voter miffed at Mayor Harris for spending more time on getting Governor Cayetano re-elected than trying to find money and incentives to compensate our cops better so they won't move? Who else is irked when Harris shrugs his shoulders at news conferences over this future exodus of officers and says, gee, we'd love to pay the folks at HPD more, but -- gosh, darn it -- we just don't have the money right now.

Hallelujah! Was I the only Star-Bulletin devotee happy to read David W. Eyre's letter to the editor on Saturday, describing how crummy the weather was in the Pacific Northwest, and how HPD cops would hate it there?

Eyre wrote, "In Portland, if often just drizzles and drizzles and drizzles. The trees are bare. Flower gardens are a sickly brown. In winter, it's dark when you go to work and dark when you come home. You've got to bundle and galosh the kids before you send them off to school. They have runny noses and coughs with frequency.

"Did I mention the occasional ice storms? That'll give you a thrill on a slick highway. Want to go surfing? The ocean is several hours away and a wet suit is mandatory to fight the frigid waters, even in the summer."

Does anyone else lose hope after reading this e-mail message that I received on Sunday from a person who wishes to remain anonymous: "I am a former HPD officer who left in 1997. I now work for a department near Seattle. I am grateful for the training I got in Honolulu and the opportunities that training has opened for me. However, the decision to leave HPD was not a hard one.

"As soon as I got to my new department, my take-home pay doubled. Now that I'm off probation, I make triple what I used to at HPD. I don't pay for any of my medical benefits. The city I work for matches the first $90 I put in deferred compensation. My uniforms are 100 percent paid for by the city and I get a shoe allowance of $125 a year.

"There were nights I worked for HPD that I had no portable radio because they were all signed out to officers working special duty at Aloha Stadium. I drove cars that had well over 100,000 miles on them. That doesn't happen where I work now. And as far as the weather goes, it's not raining in the house that I bought and can easily afford."

OH boy. Is anybody else nervous that we are losing experienced, quality police officers because we are too cheap to reward them like other places, who apparently place a much higher value on their job responsibilities and abilities?

Who besides me is willing to pay a teensy bit more in county taxes to give raises and/or incentive bonuses to the people who deal with the scummy criminal element and strive to keep the peace on this island rock?

A show of hands, please: Who else thinks it's stupid to spend $100,000 to put an HPD officer through the academy and field training, so that some other state can steal him or her away?

Forget the aloha spirit. Let's keep our cops.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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