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Friday, October 24, 2014         

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Furloughs to slow some police functions

Officers and essential workers will be on the job, but civilian staff must take the days off

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

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Public safety will not be jeopardized, and the public will be inconvenienced minimally under the Honolulu Police Department's furlough plan set to begin next week, Police Chief Louis Kealoha said yesterday.

But anticipate a longer wait in line for police reports, background checks and records, as well as firearms registration, on furlough days.

The approximately 2,000 sworn officers are exempted from the citywide furloughs. However, about 70 percent of HPD's 497 civilian employees will be furloughed and take unpaid days off two Fridays a month like many other city employees. That is a pay reduction of about 9 percent.

Those furloughed will include nearly all administrative support staff, including civilian clerks, secretaries, information technology specialists, maintenance and mechanical staff, and evidence lab personnel. Most will take the same Fridays off as other city employees, although some might work staggered shifts, such as Records Division staff and Firearms Registration Division workers.

"The public impact would be very minimal," Kealoha said. "There's not going to be any impact on public safety, but with the civilian furloughs there might be delays in areas such as getting copies of police reports and things like that." The firearms registration counter might also see reduced staffing.

"They'll just have to wait in line a little bit longer," the chief said.

The public should take into account that special-duty requests will not be processed on furlough days -- if they are seeking to hire off-duty police officers for outside security or traffic safety work, Kealoha said.

The remaining 30 percent of HPD's civilian employees are exempted from furloughs because they are in public safety jobs that both Mayor Mufi Hannemann and HPD promised would not be forced to take unpaid leave. They will, however, still be taking pay cuts of about 5 percent this coming fiscal year.

Those include police dispatchers, 911 call operators and evidence specialists.

"They directly impact our response time to calls (and ability to conduct police investigations), and we're not going to compromise public safety," Kealoha said.

Yesterday, a nonsworn employee appreciation chili luncheon was held in the HPD headquarters' courtyard.

Kealoha and other police brass dished up chili with Portuguese sausage, rice, salad and cake for about 200 civilian workers at the event, sponsored by the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the Honolulu Police Relief Association and the Honolulu Police Federal Credit Union. The employees were also given $25 Foodland gift cards.

SHOPO President Tenari Maafala said he and Kealoha discussed the need for some sort of show of support and appreciation for the civilian workers after the furloughs were announced.

"They're the backbone of the department," he said.

Honolulu firefighters and paramedics also will not be affected by furloughs. City lifeguards are taking a 5 percent pay cut but will not be furloughed, city spokesman Bill Brennan said.






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