HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department has 21 new officers.
The 18 men and three women were part of HPD's 187th Police Recruit Class that received their badges Wednesday night in a ceremony at Joseph Rider Farrington Auditorium.
But even with those men and women joining the ranks, there are still a lot of vacancies in what should be a 2,000-officer department.
Police Chief Susan Ballard says the vacancies total "260 by our count, but we have some that are in training, so it comes down to about 190, if all the ones in training get through and make it through probation."
HPD's recruit classes have had as many as nearly 50 members, but the department has had classes as small as 12. It's because of a tough selection process that includes a written test and background checks, along with psychological and physical testing, and much more.
"So we can start out with 12-hundred, and we can end up with a class of maybe 50 or 60 out of that 12-hundred," Ballard says.
The department has already implemented some changes, including shortening the amount of time for training.
"We're looking at starting four classes a year," Ballard says. "We try to graduate three. So it will probably take us about two and a half to three years just to catch up with the current vacancies."
These new officers started their training several months ago, when the department was in turmoil because of the controversy surrounding then-chief Louis Kealoha.
New Honolulu Police Commission chairwoman Loretta Sheehan says the ceremony showed what she believes is the start of a renewal in community pride in the department, which will help fill those empty slots.
"When a community is proud of its police department and invested in its police department, then they want to be part of that police department," Sheehan says.
Seannette Nakasone is one of the new officers who was showered with congratulations and lei after the ceremony.
"Two hundred days and I'm here, and I'm ready to help the community" Nakasone says. "I hope that I can be the best officer I can possibly be."