KAILUA-KONA — Think you have what it takes to wear the badge and blue?
With 49 police officer vacancies as of Tuesday and several more anticipated in the coming months as veteran officers retire, the Hawaii Police Department is actively recruiting new officers to serve in all Big Island communities.
The effort to secure 47 new entry-level officers to join the department commences at midnight Sunday. The department currently has 434 sworn positions serving the island 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“It is a good career, and it does require a commitment,” said HPD Administrative Services Major Robert Wagner. “At times it’s very routine in the things that you do, but at times it is very rewarding with the things you were able to do and the difference you can make.”
Starting pay for a Hawaii County police officer I is $5,364 per month, or $64,368 annually. That’s higher than the island’s median household income of $56,395, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
That salary is bolstered by a healthy benefits package that includes holiday pay; vacation pay; leave for illness, military, funeral or accidental injury; health and life insurance; and retirement. Uniforms and equipment and a monthly subsidy for use of the officer’s vehicle are also part of the package.
Men and women alike are encouraged to apply whether they’re from the Big Island, another island or the mainland, as are applicants who might not have succeeded the first time around. Applicants must be at least 20 years old to apply and at least 21 years old upon graduation from the Police Academy.
Applications, which must be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. Hawaii time Tuesday, Nov. 12, can be found online at www.hawaiicounty.gov.
The department aims to start its 92nd recruit class in February 2020.
Qualified applicants must have graduated from high school or obtained a GED; possess a valid driver’s license; have knowledge of grammar, spelling and word usage; be qualified to carry/possess firearms or ammunition in accordance with state and federal laws; and have no felony or domestic-violence convictions. In addition, they must meet county health and physical condition standards.
“For us, the challenge is finding that applicant that is qualified and able to perform the duties of a police officer,” said Sgt. Jason Grouns. “Some people are simply applying to find a job and may not be cut out for it. And, unfortunately, it takes them getting into class and seeing what it entails to do the job and find out.”
He suggested applicants really think about the job before applying, including the risks and rewards. Last year, Hawaii Police Department Officer Bronson Kaliloa was killed in the line of duty, along with 105 other law enforcement officers throughout the nation. There also was the Kilauea volcano eruption, among other incidents.
Grouns said applicants should keep in mind that police officers “work in a high-pace environment” and “things can switch gears in an instant.” He noted a candidate must also be a good communicator.
“A lot of people apply and think it’s all about writing tickets and making arrests, but it’s a lot more,” Grouns said.
Candidates must also take a written exam, which is administered in Hilo or Kona. Upon passage of the written exam, an applicant is given a date to complete an agility test, which essentially is a 70-second obstacle course.
“Those that pass the agility course will come to the station that day and we’ll start our process,” Grouns said. That process includes filling out an application, being interviewed and passing various checks, such as a background check. It can take about six months, but a person can keep working at their current job.
“Once you make it through all of that stuff, then we will give them the two week notice to tell their employer,” he said.
That’s when a candidate officially becomes a member of the Hawaii Police Department.
“It is a commitment, but you start getting paid,” Grouns said. “From Day One of recruit class you’re hired on as police officer I, and you get paid from Day One.”
Grouns said applications come in from East and West Hawaii. The Police Academy is in Hilo.
“It’s a 50-50 mix of East and West Hawaii,” he said. “Some applicants will meet up with each other during the process and they’ll find a place over on this side and become roommates so they don’t have to drive every day.”
Following six months of in-class training, recruits head out for four months of field training with a veteran officer. Once that training is complete, officers are assigned to a district.
“We fill where the vacancies are, where we need the manpower,” Grouns said. “We do have our brand new officers fill out a ‘dream sheet’ of where they would prefer to work. Unfortunately, nobody automatically gets sent back to the district where they’re from, but we’ll try to accommodate them.”
“As a department, we look at the needs of the community and address those needs with the resources available,” Wagner said. “We look at problem areas, areas with high call numbers for service, and we allocate personnel accordingly. And, yes, with more officers, we can do more as well.”
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