MPD seeks recruits to fill more than 40 vacant positions

WAILUKU — Some police officers have been reassigned to work patrol shifts, and some promotions are being delayed, as police continue recruiting officers to fill more than 40 vacant positions.

The number of vacancies is expected to increase by the end of the year, when 16 officers will have retired, including some captains, lieutenants and sergeants, said Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu.

At a Maui Police Commission meeting Wednesday at the Wailuku Police Station, Faaumu and other police officials discussed efforts to deal with the shortage and to recruit more officers.

“It is a challenge,” Faaumu said. “You’re looking for the best of the best.”

As of Oct. 31, Maui Police Department staffing for officers was at 89 percent, with 42 vacancies, said business administrator Melissa Magonigle.

She said the number of officers retiring this year represents half of those who were eligible to retire at the beginning of the year.

Police have said the officer shortage is a nationwide issue and one that has recurred over the years.

In 1986, when Faaumu was among 24 graduating recruits, he recalled how officers said they couldn’t wait for the recruits to be on the road “because we’re short.”

“Fast forward 33 years, we’re still singing the same tune,” Faaumu said.

He said a study done by Deputy Chief Dean Rickard showed current MPD officers include 13 baby boomers, 176 Generation X members, 146 millennials and one Generation Z member.

“They have different values,” Faaumu said.

He said millennials generally aren’t as interested in money and overtime.

“What they want is to be part of an organization,” he said. “They want promotions. They want to be heard.”

To help reinforce the family-oriented aspect of the department, Faaumu said police are planning a Family Day for officers, their spouses and children with activities and information about financial wellness, employee assistance programs and other topics.

He said police are seeking approval for an incentive recruitment program that would provide incentive pay for an officer who recruits someone who successfully completes training to become a police officer.

Another idea being considered is a modified recruit academy for police officers on the Mainland who want to move to Maui and become officers, Faaumu said.

He said police also are proposing to bring back a cadet program for people who are interested in police careers but are too young to join the department. Even if cadets decide not to become police officers, “at least we know they will be good members of our community,” Faaumu said.

In October, police Juvenile Section officers participated in recruiting drives at colleges and military bases on Oahu. Sgt. Terence Gomez produced a recruitment video that has been posted online.

Faaumu said staffing in patrol districts needs to be maintained at 80 percent.

“We know they are the front line,” Faaumu said.

He said the percentage is based on factors including the number of calls for service, officer safety, mandatory training and leave.

To maintain patrol staffing, Faaumu said he identified department units that might not be as essential and suggested that those officers be assigned to work in patrol. But others, saying that would affect morale, suggested that police instead ask for volunteers to work patrol shifts, Faaumu said.

Rickard said officers from outside districts and those from other bureaus have volunteered to work shifts in the Wailuku Patrol District.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” he said.

Three of the six officers from the Crime Reduction Unit, which is part of the patrol division, have been reassigned to patrol duty, Rickard said.

Early next year, police plan to complete promotions for three each of sergeant, lieutenant and captain positions to fill some of those vacancies, Rickard said.

“We’re going to do it piecemeal and make sure we don’t forget about our line personnel,” he said.

Faaumu said the department now has four reserve officers who help with training.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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