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Police union says HPD staffing shortages are putting officers and the public at risk

HPD vacancies, COVID staffing shortages and leave are taking a toll on response times and officer safety, the head of the police union said.
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 4:21 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2022 at 5:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Department vacancies, COVID staffing shortages and leave are taking a toll on response times and officer safety, the head of the police union says.

There are regularly about 300 vacant positions. Add to that officers on leave and COVID call outs.

“It’s getting worse,” said Robert Cavaco, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.

Cavaco pointed to last Friday night in HPD’s District 3, which extends from Waipahu to Red Hill. Only eight officers reported for duty at 10 p.m., when the shift started.

That’s just 47% of full staffing.

About midnight there was a fatal pedestrian accident on the H-2 Freeway, which required five of the eight officers to respond.

Additional patrol officers had to be brought in that night on overtime to help cover, but it was still below the department minimum.

Cavaco said HPD leaders need to shift resources to address the problem. “We believe there are officers that are in nice-to-have assignments and not need-to-have assignments,” he said.

Cavaco used the example of a community policing team that might have five officers plus a sergeant.

He said the department should put four of those officers back in patrol to ease the strain.

Cavaco said one officer can handle the community and neighborhood watch meetings as most have gone virtual during the pandemic.

In a statement Friday afternoon, an HPD spokesperson said the pandemic plan allows district commanders and supervisors to reassign officers to respond to calls and officers from other districts can also be brought in if needed.

The statement went on to say that interim Chief Rade Vanic will meet next week with district commanders and SHOPO leaders to discuss the issue.

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