Every Honolulu Police officer killed in the line of duty was honored today as the Honolulu Police Department marked the beginning of National Police Week.
We asked if awareness of the dangers — after high-profile officer-involved shootings — has made recruitment more difficult.
The public may think that being a police officer now is more dangerous now than in the past — but Police Chief Susan Ballard says it isn’t.
“You know with all the tools that are available to the officers now and the training that’s available, it’s actually a much safer job than it ever has been in the past.”
Still, HPD has nearly 250 vacancies, which Ballard is working to fix.
“So we are on continuous hiring, and we’re going to be talking to the City to see if we can look in, perhaps have signing bonuses to try and get people in.”
Honolulu is not alone, according to Malcom Lutu, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.
“It’s happening across the nation where all the departments are having a hard time recruiting officers.”
Hawaii’s unemployment rate is very low, so the department is competing for applicants against all other employers.
Ballard says people may have the wrong idea of the kind of person they’re seeking.
“You don’t need to be that athletic, square-jawed, man or that really tall and really athletic woman. That’s not the way it is anymore and with the tools and the training we have, we’re looking for anybody.”
Especially, she says, anyone with good communication skills.
A Honolulu police recruit makes a base salary of more than $63,000 — starting with attendance at the academy.
Beyond the pay, Lutu says there are rewards that can’t be measured. His most memorable work was as a plain-clothes officer, catching homicide suspects.
“It’s an honorable job. This is the last job I thought I would have been doing also, but it just came to be and I’ve been here 30 years now, and it’s the best job you can have.”
Despite recent high-profile, officer-involved shootings — the anti-police sentiment of many big mainland cities doesn’t exist in Hawaii.
Ballard says, “Every family knows someone who’s in the Police Department and so our community supports our officers and they have the trust in the officers to do the right thing, but yet it’s our responsibility too, to make sure that we earn that trust, every single day.”