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Thursday, September 21, 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
After heavy recruiting efforts by mainland police departments a
few years ago, several HPD officers who left for the mainland have
returned to Hawaii. From left, returning cops Robert Natividad,
Kevin Napoleon and Vince Ho-Ching "talk story"
with Sgt. Rick Wheeler.

Cops come
home to Hawaii

Mainland recruitment doesn't
pan out for several Hawaii
police officers

HPD shifts recruiting focus, looks off-island

By Jaymes K. Song

obert Natividad thought there was a mistake when he received his first paycheck from the King County Sheriff's Office in Seattle last year.

He informed his superiors about the discrepancy -- his check amounted to almost double his paycheck as a Honolulu police officer.

Police badge But the check was accurate.

"I was like, 'Wow, this is amazing,' " he said.

Natividad was one of 24 Honolulu officers hired by King County in the past two years. A total of 57 officers have left for various mainland departments since November 1998, when the Honolulu Police Department started to keep track of officers leaving to join other forces.

Natividad is also one of the four from King County who have since rejoined HPD. Four others have returned from other mainland departments. HPD Maj. Glen Kajiyama, of the Human Resources Division, said the officers have returned for a variety of reasons, ranging from the weather and family support, to missing local food and the "aloha spirit."

"Those small things all add up," Kajiyama said.

HPD Chief Lee Donohue has accepted all the officers back as promised a few years ago, when mainland departments began heavy recruiting in Hawaii.

"I always left that option open for our officers because, at one time, early in my career, I considered (moving) also," he said. "But I decided, no -- this is my home, I was born and raised here, so why should I be leaving?

"So I understand the thoughts and feelings the officers have."

Apparently, the feelings and experiences of the officers who have returned have had some impact. Last year, 37 Honolulu officers left for mainland departments. So far this year, only six have departed.

But HPD also has stepped up efforts to keep its officers, implementing several retention plans, such as a three-day work week, allowing officers to spend more time with family.

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Police officer Robert Natividad found financial benefits in Seattle,
but is happy to be back in the islands. He's pictured here at Kailua
Beach with wife, Selaina, and daughters Tiare, 6,
Shaianye, 4, and Bobbie, 3.

Natividad and Kevin Napoleon, who returned to HPD after three years in California, advise officers considering a mainland move to look not just at the money. Study prospective new home areas first, and know exactly what you're getting into, they tell colleagues.

It was higher pay that lured Natividad and many others to the Pacific Northwest. The 11-year HPD veteran thought heftier paychecks would allow him to spend more time with his family, rather than having to work overtime or special duty.

In Hawaii, "We had to work hard to make ends meet," said the 33-year-old father of three girls. "The dollar stretches more up there."

The "amazing" paychecks afforded him a four-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot home on a quarter-acre of land in Sumner, Wash., for $244,000. Natividad said the den was larger than the entire two-bedroom cottage he left in Kailua.

Transfers led to animosity

Although fellow deputies in King County were "cordial," Natividad felt some animosity. That was a "normal reaction," he said, since he was credited for his time with HPD. As a "lateral transfer," he earned more than some of the officers who were training him.

However, Natividad, who was a member of HPD's highly-trained Specialized Services Division, was fired last year from King County. He thought he was doing "fine," but was told at the end of his probation that he "didn't cut the mustard," and "wasn't fit for the department," he recalled.

"I could not get above the clouds with them," he said. "I felt I was unfairly terminated."

Natividad admits he had difficulty with directions -- they didn't use makai and mauka -- and had to get used to different laws and terms. But he felt he improved everyday.

King County wouldn't comment on Natividad, but said two others from Hawaii also were terminated while four left on their own, which is common within a group of new officers.

"I think it's fair to say there's a certain amount of culture shock going from Hawaii to the mainland," said Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesman for the King County Sheriff's Office. "It would be a culture shock for an officer here to go to Maui or Honolulu.

"There are a lot of family ties that are certainly very strong in the islands. There's that geographic distance, both mental and literal, when you leave all your friends and family behind."

Hawaii officers also must adjust to the department's fast-paced environment, Urquhart said.

"We have a tough field-training program, there's no question about it," he said. "We have very high standards and we hold people to high standards."

But Natividad says the work actually was more "simple" and in some ways easier compared with Honolulu, especially with report writing. Reports are very brief in King County, he said.

Despite Natividad's experiences, "There's a great number of Hawaiian officers in the Pacific Northwest and (they are) very happy," Urquhart said.

King County, in turn, is "very, very happy with the quality of officers we got from the islands," he said.

There are so many officers with Hawaii roots that the Northwest Maka'i Ohana was formed and celebrated its 12th annual Ho'olaulea this year.

"I'm happy for them, but in my case it was not for me," Natividad said.

He discovered that although the pay was good in King County, the cost of living lower and there were more laws there that favor police officers, Hawaii is home.

The St. Louis School graduate was tired of gray skies and desperately missed local food and beaches, and he missed his family and friends.

After leaving the King County force, Natividad worked several odd jobs, even as a flight attendant, to make it on the mainland.

But one night, while in Chicago, where he was based as a flight attendant, he was on the phone with his wife and knew it was time to return to Hawaii. "We discussed it and said, 'We tried, but let's go back home,' " Natividad said.

They returned in April.

This month Natividad began to rebuild his career, starting as a recruit at the Honolulu Police Academy.

He will be allowed to go through abbreviated training, but will not be credited for his 11 years with HPD.

Officers who leave the force must return within three months to retain their rank and years of service, according to the police union contract.

Meanwhile, Natividad also has returned to the cramped Kailua cottage -- but he's happier than ever.

"I lost 11 years, but I cannot explain how good it is to be back," he said, smiling.

'I need to go home'

Napoleon, also going through recruit school, returned after three years with the East Palo Alto Police Department in California. He gave up salary offers of $60,000 to $75,000 to take an entry-level officer position at HPD for $32,000.

"Pay is not everything," he said. On his first week in East Palo Alto, he was shot at by a gunman armed with an AK-47 assault rifle. His second week, he fired his handgun at a suspect, something he never did before. He also aided fellow officers "pinned down by gunfire" several times.

"I was shocked, I was thinking maybe this is not for me ... I need to go home," Napoleon said.

He was committed to completing his three-year contract, but returned to Hawaii as soon as his contract expired.

"I'm not going to miss attending police officers' funerals," Napoleon said. "Every couple weeks, a brother was dying and that's not a good thing."

Like Natividad, Napoleon also felt resentment and tension from other officers.

He felt they were envious because he was getting paid more and being promoted quickly. He was to be a sergeant when he left California.

"Instead of accepting you, they try to get rid of you," he said. "They feel I'm a threat to their job."

Napoleon, a Damien High School graduate and a father of a 2-year-old boy, said he missed everything about Hawaii including the trees, ocean and sunsets. "Family and home is more important than career advancement."

HPD shifts
recruiting focus,
looks off-island

With 242 open positions,
Honolulu is trying to keep
ahead of mainland outfits

By Jaymes K. Song

The Honolulu Police Department is looking for 242 new officers whose personalities are more like Microsoft mogul Bill Gates than wrestling superstar "The Rock."

"We're kind of deviating from the old philosophy where we were trying to attract the macho type of people," said Maj. Glen Kajiyama of HPD's Human Resources Division. "These type of people will be attracted to us anyway."

HPD specifically wants Generation X-ers who want to work in a high-tech and family-oriented environment.

"We're targeting Generation X, but everyone is targeting them," Kajiyama said. "We like to say it's a war for talent."

The 242 openings at HPD were caused by retirements, officers leaving for higher-paying mainland departments, and 108 new positions.

Police departments nationwide are dealing with a shortage of officers, caused by a robust technology-driven economy. Many of the forces have resorted to recruiting outside their states.

HPD is now among them, having dropped the Hawaii residency requirement and allowing hires from outside the islands.

"Before, you had to be a resident just to apply, which limited the applicants from the military," Kajiyama said.

HPD recruiters have started visiting local colleges and military bases. They have also set up job booths at University of Hawaii athletic events.

The high-tech lure for potential new officers is a laptop computer to be installed in every patrol car, plus Palm Pilot-like devices for officers to write reports, in the next couple years, Kajiyama said.

Donohue said HPD's goal is to have all positions filled by the end of 2001.

Recruits in training now number 163, but 200 officers are eligible to retire.

Donohue hopes the new three-day work schedules for all patrol officers, starting Oct. 1, will give officers more time to spend with family and eventually stop the exodus of officers to the Pacific Northwest.

"We can't offer the pay they do on the West Coast right now, but we certainly can work on our environment here and make it a great place to work," he said.

Three mainland departments are recruiting in the islands this month.

The Oregon State Police Department has at least 100 openings and possibly hundreds more in the upcoming years, with almost half of their force eligible for retirement, said recruiter Ken Schippers.

Oregon State and the Portland Police Bureau were recruiting last week on Oahu. This is Oregon State's third consecutive year recruiting in the islands.

"It's a good market for us," Schippers said. "A lot of people are under the assumption that we're there trying to steal police officers from the forces there, and that's not true at all. ... We're not going to back-door any department by targeting police officers."

Schippers said the primary target is military and college students, but they will consider all applicants.

However, Honolulu officers were exactly what the King County Sheriff's Office in Seattle wanted when they came here. They hired 24 Honolulu officers in the past two years.

"It was a target-rich environment," said Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesman for the King County Sheriff's Office. "We pay our officers a lot more than you guys pay."

Since there was a "real dissatisfaction" among Honolulu officers with pay and contract issues revealed in newspaper articles, King County focused its "recruiting dollars" in Hawaii.

"There were a lot of people looking for a change, and we certainly wanted to take advantage of that," Urquhart said. "And that's the same reason why other departments are (in Hawaii)."

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