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Friday, January 14, 2000

Maui feels the
pinch of police

The Valley Isle lost 30
officers last year, some lured
to mainland jobs

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU -- Maui police officers are leaving their jobs in twice the usual numbers, placing a strain on law enforcement services, including criminal investigations and drunken driving arrests, Police Chief Thomas Phillips says.

Last year, the number of drunken driving arrests decreased compared to 1998, mainly because of staff shortages, he said.

Only five positions of nine in the traffic section are filled.

He said detectives involved in criminal and drug cases have had to delay investigating information about crimes because of the additional workload.

In 1999, 30 of the department's 334 officers, nearly 9 percent of the force, left, bringing the number of vacancies to 44. Phillips said the department usually has about 8 to 15 departures a year.

Of the 30 who left last year, 17 resigned. They included two who left for police jobs in Oregon, two who transferred to the Honolulu Police Department, and two others who planned to join police departments in Montana or Colorado, Phillips said.

Phillips said the main reason officers are leaving is the relatively low pay compared to the high cost of living on the Valley Isle.

"I'm certain pay has a lot to do with it," he said. "The people have left because they felt it was too expensive to live here."

Phillips said out-of-state police recruiters have also been more aggressive.

A police recruit on Maui and the rest of the state receives $2,648 a month and usually trains for about a year before becoming a patrolman.

Phillips said the department is having more difficulty replacing officers because the number of applicants has decreased to less than half the normal number.

He said recruitment has been hampered by a state civil service law that requires a person to reside in Hawaii before applying for a county or state job.

He said the requirement effectively prevents the Maui Police Department from recruiting or hiring someone from outside Hawaii who is qualified and willing to move to Maui.

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