WAILUKU - The Maui Police Department is looking to fill nearly 30 civilian positions - the largest vacancy the department has had in about six years - as soon as possible, police officials said Wednesday morning.
"We're kind of hurting," Greg Takahashi, business administrator for the department, told the Maui Police Commission, adding that the department has lost nearly 6 percent of its employees recently due to retirement and other circumstances.
There are currently 341 uniformed police officers and 107 civilian employees in the workforce, Takahashi said at the monthly commission meeting. Those numbers are short of the maximum of 383 officers and 136 civilian positions authorized by the County of Maui.
Of the 29 civilian positions to be filled, 15 are for radio dispatchers, Takahashi said.
"We have at least 40 applicants, though, so the interest is good," he said. "There's a six-month training period . . . so it takes a while. It's hard to find and actually retain dispatchers, because there's a lot of interest but some people realize that it's not for them."
One dispatcher resigned earlier this month. A group of dispatchers are beginning hands-on training over the next three or four months to help fill some of the vacancies, police officials said. Department officials added that another three applicants are being interviewed next week.
For uniformed police officers, 10 were added as part of the 78th Recruit Class in November and about another 20 are undergoing training as part of the 79th Recruit Class, expected to graduate in May, police officials said.
At the meeting at the Wailuku Police Station, the commission heard presentations by lieutenants, assistant police chiefs and Police Chief Gary Yabuta about computer-aided dispatch systems and other activities within the department that occurred over the past month.
Takahashi also gave a presentation on the department's 2014 fiscal budget.
A little more than $1 million has been budgeted for the purchase of 26 police vehicles and about $60,000 for 10 mobile traffic cameras, Takahashi said. The vehicles included 15 marked police cars, six unmarked ones, three marked police sport utility vehicles and two unmarked SUVs.
The department is currently reviewing the bids for the vehicles, Takahashi said.
The commission meeting came a day after police officials held a news conference at the Wailuku Police Station and appeared at the Kihei Community Association meeting to address the recent disappearances of two Maui women.
Commissioners did not directly address the cases involving the women, Carly "Charli" Scott and Moreira "Mo" Monsalve, but a commissioner asked Yabuta how the Kihei meeting went.
"I felt it went well," Yabuta answered, adding that attendance was good.
The chief added that there are no future meetings planned.
Monsalve's daughter, Alexis Felicilda, attended Wednesday's meeting but did not speak. She said she is considering filing a formal complaint against the department with the commission. The Monsalve family has expressed dissatisfaction with the investi-gation by police into Monsalve's disappearance.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.