HPD reserve officer program makes police dream possible


POSTED: Monday, April 20, 2009

Joseph Becera wanted to be a cop, but there was one problem: money.

As an air traffic controller, he was making more than a police lieutenant. So when he was accepted into the Honolulu Police Department's Police Academy, he declined to join.

The dream, however, didn't fade, and he found another way—doing it for free.






        The Honolulu Police Department currently is not looking for any additional reserve officers. However, those interested may be put on a waiting list by calling the police career center at 723-7788.

Becera is one of 72 police officers in HPD's Reserve Officer program, which provides more police visibility in higher crime areas on Oahu, while saving the department money. Reserve officers are required to volunteer five hours a week.

This year, police are holding the program's first recruitment class since 1992. Classes are held when resources are available. About 40 cadets are in the class, receiving the same training as regular police officers, but over a longer period, said program coordinator Lt. Baron Lee.

The program provided 17,000 volunteer hours, or the equivalent of more than $350,000 in officers' salaries, in 2008.

On Friday, Becera and 15 other reserve officers gathered in full uniform at the Kalihi police station and were briefed on sites they would visit that night, focusing on gang sites and disorderly behavior. They were in Pearl City a week earlier.

Reserve officers, many of them retired police officers and citizens with full-time jobs, travel to districts where additional help is requested. They have the same power to arrest as regular officers.

Becera, now retired from his civilian job, has been in the program for 31 years and enjoys the camaraderie.

“;Policemen see things that (other) people cannot see,”; the 71-year-old said, referring to murder scenes and traffic accidents.

“;You have to stay in shape. Otherwise, you're out,”; he continued. “;This is what's keeping me alive.”;

For Mel Nakaoka, 43, the demands and hours of being a regular police officer presented a choice between his work and his family. After a year, he left the job.

Now an architect with Benjamin Woo Architects, he can continue his passion of helping the community as a reserve officer.

“;It's very rewarding,”; Nakaoka said, adding that it “;keeps me grounded and makes me appreciate what I have.”;