Honolulu police recently announced pay raises and a host of other benefits to attract new recruits and keep veterans amid a staffing crisis.
Earlier this month, the Honolulu City Council approved the plan to increase police officer pay by 5% throughout 2025 in an effort to fill vacancies.
The previous base salary for an officer with two years of experience $5,687 per month. The raise brings starting salaries to roughly $6,000 a month.
In addition, the department plans to offer a range of benefits for new recruits, including affordable housing, flexible scheduling and better working conditions.
Bonuses are also being considered to help keep veterans on the payroll.
The move comes after HPD officials announced their plan in March to add around 300 new officers by next summer by increasing the number of training academies.
Currently, the department has 350 vacancies, with some experts calling the situation a crisis.
“The Honolulu Police Department is in a full-scale staffing crisis, and it is critical that police leaders and government leaders acknowledge that and act accordingly,” said Vice President Stephen Keogh of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO). “Unfortunately, HPD is well past the point of being able to use traditional recruitment methods to meet our staffing needs. We cannot hire and train new officers as quickly as they are leaving.”
SHOPO was responsible for negotiating with the state for the 5% salary increase over the next three years.
“We expect to see financial incentives proposed, but they are not silver bullets. They tend to be temporary and can worsen morale for those who have spent their careers serving this community,” Keogh said.
HPD Chief Joe Logan told west Oahu residents that the pay raises, benefits and additional training academies are sure to have a positive impact on recruiting and retention.
“We still have people retiring and mainland departments recruiting our officers, giving them better pay. We can’t do that, but maybe we can offer a bonus. We may try to give $5,000 to $10,000 to stay here,” Logan said. “We may need to change some rules to do that.
It has been difficult for the department to find qualified recruits.
More than 2,850 people applied to take the HPD entrance exam in 2021, but only around 900 people passed the test. Of those, just 189 were selected for recruit classes.
Logan also hopes high schools will create law enforcement classes to attract more young people to the profession, as well as bring native Hawaiians who moved to the mainland to become police officers back to the islands.
“They have the experience and training, they just need to brush up on our laws and procedures,” he said.
Of course, Logan said the main attraction for new recruits are the numerous benefits being offered by the department, including flexible working schedules of three-day, 12-hour shift schedules with four days off to allow officers to spend more time with their family.
In addition, the HPD plans to provide affordable housing options for first responders until they can afford their own homes.
The department also intends to update its technology to facilitate administrative tasks and make sure officers spend the majority of their time patrolling instead of doing paperwork.
“My priority is filling all the patrols. That’s the backbone of the department,” Logan explained.
The department also hopes to reduce attrition by having more frequent, smaller academy class sizes that allow officers to mentor individual recruits.
Major Mike Lambert with the HPD training division said their methods with recruits have changed.
“They (new recruits) have different stresses and stimulations. The old way was we tried to shake the tree as hard as we could and see who really wanted to be here,” Lambert said. “That worked for a decade. Now the group we pull from has different expectations on what the work environment is, and one of those things they want is to feel part of the team immediately. From day one, they have a mentor assigned to them.”
The pay raises are estimated to cost Honolulu taxpayers $136.7 million over the next three years.