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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 10, 2006

HPD officers attract recruiter

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

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A Washington state police recruiter is coming to Honolulu next month in hopes of luring away local officers who are unhappy with the pending change in work shifts at the Honolulu department.

Jim Nelson, recruitment officer with the city of Federal Way's police department and a former four-year veteran of HPD, said he's been hearing that morale in Honolulu is low and that officers are thinking about leaving.

"It seems the transition (from the 3-12 to the 5-8) has led to discontent," Nelson said by phone from Washington. "That's why we're coming."

Speculation about a mass officer exit has been discussed among front-line troops, some of whom are voicing their discontent about a recently announced schedule change that forces more than 1,100 officers to change from a three-day, 12-hour shift workweek to a five-day, eight-hour shift week.

Proponents of the schedule say it allows for more opportunities to work second jobs, special duty assignments, or spend time with family. Critics of the 3-12 schedule and the administration of Chief Boisse Correa have said the schedule exhausts officers, ruins the continuity of criminal investigations and discourages community interaction.

E-mails from patrol officers and lieutenants decrying the schedule change have been circulating in the department for weeks, according to officers. But almost none of the 1,100 officers affected by the change have spoken publicly about it because they are not allowed to talk with the media about department-related issues unless they clear it with a supervisor or the department, according to an official with the State of Hawai'i Organization of Police Officers.

Elizabeth Hata, whose husband is a patrolman, said when the department used rotating schedules, it created chaos for family life. Stability and a chance to earn additional income came along with the 3-12, as did many more recruits, she said.

"The department actually used the 3-12 schedule as part of a recruiting tool. Working a set schedule provided a form of consistency, it allowed them to give stability to our families. It allowed officers to work special duty jobs to subsidize their much-needed salary," she said. "Now, it is being decided that this schedule is not working? Who is it not working for?"

"If these officers will not have the time to work special duty jobs to supplement their income, how are they expected to provide for their family? And how does this family now pay for the daycare they need to find?"

Detective Bart Canada, who now works a 4-8 schedule, acknowledges that it is difficult for patrol officers and hopes the new schedule will afford personal time for them.

"Unfortunately many officers have taken other jobs outside the department and now are in jeopardy with the 3-12 schedule (being discontinued)," he said.

On Monday, the department met with SHOPO representatives and informally proposed a rotating, five-days-a-week, eight-hours-a-day schedule that would run through 2011, said Detective Alex Garcia, SHOPO O'ahu chapter chairman. Garcia said SHOPO's O'ahu members would not agree to a schedule that rotates every six to seven weeks.

"We'll go to a 5-8 but a rotation, that's not negotiable," he said.

He said SHOPO has requested a formal meeting with the department and a representative from the city's human resources department. Deputy Chief Paul Putzulu said the meeting is scheduled for March 1.

Nelson said the starting salary of a Federal Way police officer is $49,072 a year compared with $39,072 in Honolulu. An officer with five years or more of experience could earn up to $63,072.

"We realize that economies are different today and we are sensitive to our employees because they are very, very important to us," Putzulu said. "This goes to show once again, our officers are underpaid. There is a problem with the base pay they are getting. The dollar figure another agency can offer, we can't compete with that today. Our officers need to be paid more."

Reach Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.