Kaua‘i Police Department’s sworn and unsworn employees spoke at the Police Commission meeting last week regarding concerns over KPD’s retention and wages.
During the meeting on Friday, July 29, Lt. Chris Calio testified those two issues have plagued the department for years, prior to Chief Todd Raybuck’s tenure, who took charge of KPD in 2019.
While union officials have successfully negotiated wage increases by about 21% over the next three years, Calio said, it doesn’t address the current vacancies across the department among sworn and unsworn employees. Currently, KPD has 35 total vacant positions, nine of which are for police officers, Raybuck confirmed to Kaua‘i Now Tuesday.
“This is not just happening in KPD, it’s happening across the nation. However, I have not seen so many employees in such a short amount of time separate from service,” continued Calio, who emphasized the Commission arrange a procedure to address his concerns. “I am not sure if there is a comprehensive plan which is supported by the police commission, created by our senior staff members to alleviate this critical problem.”
Civilian employee Regina “Gina” Kaulukukui, who works as KPD’s Domestic Violence Coordinator, echoed Calio’s sentiments during her testimony at the commission where she stated she feels the department should be obligated to open up communication after an employee leaves.
“We’re here today because you need to know that people aren’t leaving because they’ve successfully completed 25 years of service to the Kaua‘i Police Department. How would we know that when there’s no post interviews?” Kaulukukui questioned. “When people are gone, it’s ‘gone, goodbye, farewell, thank you very much’, there’s no conversations as to ‘how are you doing, what do you need?'”
Kaulukukui has been with KPD for 15 years, but fears that because of the lack of support, her position will be diminished and that the commission was not listening to the effects the job has on someone and their families.
“These men and these women should be applauded for the work they do, and that includes our civilian employees. Did the Chief share that in traffic for a month, we only had one officer, 24 hours a day who had to report to a fatality, who was exhausted?” declared Kaulukukui, adding, “What we do as a community, as law enforcement matters. And we need to feel as though 25 years was just a drop in the bucket and I want to stay 25 more.”
Calio and Kaulukukui were not alone in their opinions as most of the meeting’s reflected the same sentiments. When Raybuck addressed the commission, he said he anticipated this conversation and recognized their concerns.
“We don’t disagree about the need to provide a great working place and try to retain our people and provide the best services we can,” Raybuck said. “…But the number of people leaving this police department has essentially remained unchanged for the past six years.
Raybuck also provided statistics to the commission regarding employee retention.
“We have 161 authorized sworn positions, 144 are currently staff, which puts the KPD at approximately a 90% staffing level,” stated Chief Raybuck, while noting that opinions form perceptions and that perceptions can create a false reality. “Facts are facts,” he continued.
KPD has hired 70 police officers between 2016 and June 2022. Forty-four of the officers hired since 2016 are still employed, while 26 have separated from employment for various reasons. The department stated 11.7% of employees left the department between 2016 and 2018. Currently, those retiring or leaving or other employment sits at 13.7%.
Kaulukukui commented to the commission the chief’s statistics, testifying she thinks it “negates to show you what’s really going on internally, and it’s not an opinion of one.”
Kaulukukui said she’s observed the lack of communication and collaborative work from the top down.
“I can tell you that since 2019 the chief, nor the deputy chief has ever stepped into my office and asked me about stats related to domestic violence, what I need to do to make sure my job is successful, and how can I work collaboratively with my peers,” she added.
KPD is set to be reviewed by the state’s police union, Organization of Police Officers, in a matter of weeks. This review comes after SHOPO conducted a morale review amid staffing shortages at Maui Police Department in April.
Police officer recruitment is open with continuous recruitment, as any non-sworn positions are also open with continuous recruitment. KPD stated that some non-sworn positions have been hard to fill due to lack of applicants.
For more information on when to attend the next Police Commission Meeting, click here.