Police union calls officer shortages at HPD a ‘dire public health crisis’
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police union leaders said Thursday that officer staffing shortages at HPD are putting the public and officers at risk ― a claim the interim police chief called a “scare tactic.”
“We are here today to sound the alarm to the residents and businesses we protect that they are being deceived by the leadership of the Honolulu Police Department into thinking they are receiving police protection,” said SHOPO President Robert Cavaco, in a news conference.
“This dangerous understaffing is an open secret within the department,” he added, calling the shortages a “dire public health crisis.”
Cavaco even blamed a recent uptick in crime on the Honolulu Police Department shortages, saying robberies, sex assaults and car thefts were all up in January compared to a year ago. “It’s a crime of opportunity. It’s police presence. If you don’t seen any police presence, you commit crimes,” he said.
Cavaco called on HPD to authorize overtime and bring staffing to 100%.
Right now, the HPD has over 300 vacancies and that’s expected to grow over the next several years. The police union said another 193 officers are eligible to retire and there aren’t enough replacements in the current pool of new recruits.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi agreed more needs to be done to address the situation.
“The last class that graduated I think only graduated 19, which was not enough,” he said. “We need more police presence and I’m a believer in that. We want everybody to feel safe.”
Meanwhile, interim Police Chief Rade Vanic said the department has “looked into” staffing levels at patrol districts. “To say that a neighborhood or beat would not receive police services due to understaffing is incorrect and a scare tactic,” Vanic said, in an emailed statement.
He continued: “The mayor and City Council have always supported HPD and its programs. To suggest that HPD leaders demand additional funding from the city, without regard for other critical, essential city services would be irresponsible. Our administration will continue to balance the needs of the community and our employees when making operational and fiscal decisions.”
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