Raises planned for off-duty police

  • An off duty police officer directs traffic during the Ironman World Championship race. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today, file)
  • An off duty police officer escorts an athlete competing in the Ironman World Championship race. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Hawaii Island police officers who provide services for private companies or other government agencies on their off-time could see payment for their services go up by as much as 50% over the next two years, under a special duty pay schedule that’s the focus of upcoming public hearings.

Hearings are scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 12 in the training room of the Police Department’s building on Kapiolani Street in Hilo, and 9 a.m. Sept. 13 at the Kealakehe Police Station at Hale Makai Place in Kailua-Kona.

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County law requires requests for private-duty police services be administered by the chief of police. In addition to the standard pay for the police officers, the chief collects from the private companies and government agencies an administrative fee to defray the costs of running the program.

Special duty pay for officers would go up 50 percent from the current $32 an hour to $48 an hour on Jan. 1, 2021, under the proposal. Sergeants and detectives would see raises from $34 an hour to $50 an hour; lieutenants from $36 an hour to $52 an hour and captains from $38 an hour to $54 an hour.

In addition, officers required by the private employer to use their own vehicle for escort or other duties will be reimbursed at the rate of 60 cents per mile (from 40 cents per mile) or $14 per hour (from $10 per hour), whichever is greater.

Interim raises of 32% to 38% would begin sooner, after two public hearings and opportunity for written comments to be considered. The mayor has to sign off on the final plan, Maj. Robert Wagner said Friday.

“The special duty rate has not been raised since 2007. The current rate causes issues with getting officers to work special duty at that rate,” Wagner said.

“There have been several instances in which we could not meet requests, which we have found to be directly related to the rate. To ensure special duty is sustainable in the future, the rates have to increase, or the program will slowly die.”

Officers’ regular pay, paid by taxpayers, has increased significantly over the past decade. Starting police officers in Hawaii County in 2018 made $60,504-$79,944 annually, not including overtime, allowances for uniforms, weapons and ammunition and vehicles and other perks.

Police lieutenants brought in a base pay of $79,944-$112,188, sergeants $73,656-$102,900 and captains $86,760-$122,268, according to a salary database maintained by the nonprofit news website Honolulu Civil Beat.

Wagner said no special duty police are deployed at the Maunakea access road roadblock. Regular police officers are working 12-hour shifts, with the county paying their regular salary and overtime picked up by the state, he said.

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In addition to commenting on the special duty rates at the public hearings, the public can also send written comments. All written comments should be filed with the Hawaii Police Department Administrative Services Bureau at 349 Kapiolani Street, Hilo, Hawaii. 96720, by Sept. 9.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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