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COVID-19 sidelines 22 Honolulu Police Department officers

Twenty-two Honolulu police officers were isolated or quarantined Wednesday after testing positive or being exposed to the COVID-19 virus, but the absences are not hindering department operations, interim Chief Rade K. Vanic told Honolulu police commissioners.

On average, between 25 to 50 officers and civilian employees out of 2,501 are sidelined by COVID-19 on any given day, according to police.

“It does fluctuate, of course, based on our checks with the Department of Health and the recommendations of Dr. Jill Omori, (about) who should be quarantined or isolated,” said Vanic, speaking to commissioners. “These numbers … do not impact our ability to provide service to our community.”

About 75% of the department’s officers are vaccinated, 255 have applied for religious or medical exemptions and two are facing termination for refusing to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate. Honolulu police are responsible for enforcing the majority of the emergency rules put in place to help stop the spread of the virus.

In response to previous questions from commissioners about how the department is keeping the Communications Division, staffed by emergency response operators and police communications officers, safe from COVID-19, Vanic said every HPD employee is required to wear a mask in and around their work area and that each dispatcher is assigned their own headset.

The areas are sanitized and personal protective equipment is issued and readily available, he said.

Also Wednesday, commissioners discussed the search for the city’s 12th police chief, which has been delayed by the procurement process needed to select a consultant and a psychologist to evaluate the 20 candidates who qualified to participate in the selection process.

Letters describing the delay were sent to the 12 Hawaii residents and eight nonresidents who are candidates for the job but a time frame was not discussed.

Once hired, the consultant will select finalists from the list of candidates and the names and profiles will be given to commissioners and the public. Commissioners hope to select the next chief before the end of the year.

The purchasing division of the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services manages the procurement process and commissioners are not privy to the process.

Commission Chairwoman Shannon L. Alivado shared a draft set of questions that will be posted on the commission’s website and distributed to the public seeking feedback about the selection process.

The questions, drafted by commissioner Richard Parry, will be another opportunity for the public to weigh in on what the next chief’s priorities should be, what kind of questions they would like to see on the written exam, and the qualifications and experiences a candidate should have, she said.

“I think this is going to be great and very helpful for all of us,” said commissioner Doug Chin. “Having questions and putting a time limit, really helps people to focus. If people feel they need to give us written material, anything that comes to us will be helpful. It all seeps in and it’s (public participation) something that’s important to us.”

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