EXCLUSIVE: Kalihi cops stage sickout to protest overtime crackdown
KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - As many as half the patrol officers on one shift in Honolulu Police Department's Kalihi district staged a sickout for three days last month in protest of their managers' attempt to crackdown on overtime, sources told Hawaii News Now on Wednesday.
The officers are upset because they said managers are short-staffing officers in the field, and putting their safety at risk.
Sources said the patrol officers in the Kalihi district conducted a sickout during three days in March, with half of one of patrol shift calling in sick one day and a third of them staying home from work two nights in a row after that.
HPD spent overtime holding over officers from previous shifts and calling in others from days off to cover the vacant posts.
Tenari Maafala, president of the police union, condemned the sickout, known as a "blue flu."
"As a police officer as well as a union official, we do not condone that. We discourage that highly," he said. "That's again, with all due respect, that's a selfish act. If you have a disagreement with management, that's what the union is there for. File a grievance, let us know.
"We're compromising the safety and the well-being of the community and of course your beat partners, and those that are, again, your brothers and sisters in blue."
Maafala said the police union has filed grievances on behalf of two Kalihi officers who had their shifts changed after their captain accused them of "piggybacking," calling in extra, unnecessary officers to run up overtime handling routine complaints about public drinking and trespassing in city parks after they're closed.
"We're very aware of management's rights. You implement the rules and the policies and regs to manage the district of which you are a commander. But also, keep in mind what the contract calls for, that it's to protect the officers' rights," Maafala said.
In a statement about the sickout, a police spokeswoman said, "At no time were police services to the public impacted. The division is currently looking into the situation."
Sources said Kalihi police managers are also trying to cut down on overtime in DUI arrests, when officers are accused of bringing in extra colleagues so they'll get called to testify in court later and earn overtime.
Victor Bakke, a former deputy prosecutor who's now a criminal defense attorney who handles drunken driving cases daily in court, said city prosecutors sometimes subpoena seven or more officers for one drunken driving case when just one or two will do.
"If they don't subpoena the officers, then there's no piggybacking, because the officer is gonna know that they're not going to go to court and collect their overtime unless they are essential to prove the prosecutor's case," Bakke said.
Privately, Kalihi officers complain managers are routinely running shifts with far fewer officers than is safe to save money, so officers are forced to call in colleagues for backup from time to time for safety reasons.
"Instead of running short, make sure that all the beats are covered, for the sake of the public," said Maafala, the SHOPO president.
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