HONOLULU (KHON2) — The police officers’ union is sounding the alarm on the shortage of officers, and says HPD has been ignoring the issue. SHOPO says the remedy that the department has implemented so far falls far short of keeping the community and the officers safe.
HPD has been short of more than 300 officers for years. SHOPO says that is only part of the problem. The union says HPD needs to approve more overtime because so many areas island-wide don’t have enough officers on patrol.
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SHOPO presented maps of the eight Oahu districts with areas in red not being staffed on a given shift. The president, Robert Cavaco, says the union is fed up because the staffing shortage has gone on for 15 years.
“We have tried to reason with the HPD leadership about this dire public safety crisis but they are simply turning a blind eye to the problem,” said Cavaco.
He says HPD had first agreed to do a pilot program with officers working three 12-hour shifts, which he says would make a difference. But the department backed out. Cavaco says when HPD does approve overtime, it’s short of what’s actually needed.
“They’re only doing six hours a shift and they say, ‘Oh we’ll just pick the busy hours.’ Who is going to know when somebody’s going to rob an old lady at the bus stop? Think they’ll do it between 6 AM and 8 AM? No!” said Cavaco.
Interim Chief Rade Vanic addressed the issue with the Honolulu Police Commission last week. He said he has told commanders to make full use of what’s known as a backfill list made up of officers not assigned to the patrol division.
“They can pull from that list, that way they can make sure that they maintain the proper level of staffing. So that’s one of the things that we discussed,” said Vanic.
Cavaco says officers need 48-hour notice to be pulled from that list so it’s not always practical. He says he wants the administration to sit down with the union and come up with real solutions both short and long term.
The mayor says he’s also frustrated with the staff shortage. And blames it partly on the department in limbo. A permanent police chief has yet to be selected.
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“I think if you have the right leader in place that everything goes from there, from the standpoint of who they surround themselves with, the executive decisions they make, the expectations they set forth, and when it comes to especially building a team, that’s how it works,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.
HPD sent a statement saying, “To say that a neighborhood or beat would not receive police services due to understaffing is incorrect and a scare tactic…To suggest that HPD leaders demand additional funding from the city, without regard for other critical, essential city services would be irresponsible.”