Recruiting incentives for new officers and civilian hires are under discussion.

The budget of the Honolulu Police Department will jump $43 million in the next fiscal year including a $35 million increase directed to the patrol division as the department fights a persistent shortage of officers.

“Everything that HPD requested in the budget was approved,” said Dinna Schwiering, chief of staff to council budget chair Radiant Cordero, in an interview.

The department budget, which the Honolulu City Council passed Wednesday includes nearly $46 million in line items, such as $8.7 million to subsidize police vehicles, $5.4 million for gas to fuel vehicles, $5 million for Tasers and firearms and $1.5 million for body cameras and storage software.

Honolulu police officers stand near the Oahu Market across from Kekaulike Mall during Weed and Seed press conference.
HPD’s Community Policing Teams will receive an additional $900,000 in the fiscal year 2024 budget. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021)

Council members added provisions to the budget on top of what HPD requested.

Council member Andria Tupola added in $1.5 million for incentives to recruit HPD employees.

According to her discussion with Assistant Chief Aaron Takasaki-Young, the money will be used for $10,000 to $15,000 bonuses for newly hired officers and civilian employees, Tupola said in a phone interview.

Takasaki-Young declined to comment, and HPD did not respond to a request for comment.

“This is going to be huge as we’re close to 400 officers short,” Tupola told a City Council meeting last week.

Council member Tyler Dos Santos-Tam proposed a $400,000 provision for the Chinatown Task Force, which allows officers to take on additional patrol shifts to help those stationed in Chinatown. The new funding will allow the task force, which will stop receiving federal Covid-19 money at the end of this year, to continue for the first half of 2024. The program started in July 2021 to add police shifts in Chinatown.

Dos Santos-Tam also provided $220,000 to increase the salaries for police dispatchers.

“We saw recently that they’re highly understaffed and that jeopardizes our ability to respond in a timely way,” Dos Santos-Tam said at the City Council meeting.

The funds for dispatchers will come from a corresponding cut out of reserves for legal judgments, settlements and losses. “So everyone please be careful next year,” Dos Santos-Tam said.

Another $15,000 will allow HPD to buy a new speed trailer to display how fast drivers are going.

Cordero added $900,000 for HPD’s Community Policing Teams, which are tasked with building relationships in communities through outreach events.

“She really supports the Community Policing Team, and she would want the team to have more budget to expand their programs,” Schwiering said. “I think at some point council member Cordero will be communicating with HPD about what happened with that money as a check and balance.”

The increase to $354 million marks an increase of about 13.8%, but adjusted for inflation it is closer to 5%. The patrol division’s new annual budget will be nearly $202 million.

The police department takes up 10% of the City and County of Honolulu’s total budget for the fiscal year 2024, which is comparable to other metro areas like Nashville and Boston.

Altogether from 2019 to 2022, police budgets across 49 cites and counties rose more than 10%, according to an ABC News analysis.

In the coming fiscal year, the San Francisco Police Department’s budget will grow $63 million to $777 million. The Atlanta Police Department, meanwhile, requested an increase of $11.7 million, for a total of $247 million.

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