Hawaii Police Union calls for 25 percent COVID-19 hazard pay differential

Nov. 20 – The Hawaii Police Officers Union has filed four separate complaints challenging the denial of 25% pay differential hazard pay for the peak years of the COVID-19 pandemic between March 2020 and March this year.

The Hawaii Police Officers Union has filed four separate complaints against the denial of 25% pay differential hazard pay for the peak years of the COVID-19 pandemic between March 2020 and March this year.

The Hawaii State Police Officers Organization filed the complaint against the counties of Honolulu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii.

For a beginning Honolulu police officer making $71,656 per year, the temporary hazard pay would come out to $17,914 per year.

SHOPO declined to comment on the complaints, citing the ongoing arbitration process. According to SHOPO’s collective bargaining agreement, the hazard pay must be approved by the county’s human resource directors after a recommendation from the police chief.

Honolulu Human Resources claims that, unlike other county positions, hazard pay is already factored into officers’ base pay as soon as they enter recruit school because of the dangers inherent in the police force.

Gregg Okamoto, deputy chief of the Maui Police Department, declined to comment, citing the ongoing complaint. Hawaii and Kauai police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In Honolulu, SHOPO’s complaint is being handled by retired state judge Marie Milks, who is acting as arbitrator in the case. Vladimir Devens and Keani Alapa, a former HPD officer and current attorney, are handling the complaint for SHOPO. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Honolulu Corporation attorney Dana Viola told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a statement that the city joined SHOPO’s complaint about the city’s Human Resources Director’s rejection of the 25% wage differential that the union made a flat rate for all hours worked by all uniformed officers during the biennium from March 2020 to March this year as temporary hazard pay.

“HPD and the City continue to express their gratitude and respect to all officials who have worked and continue to work in the ‘new normal’ of COVID-19, but believe a strong case was presented during the arbitration hearing that supported the rejection of the complaint,” said Viola. “As this matter is pending, HPD and the City will respect the arbitration process and decline further public comment on this matter.”

During the two-year period in question, 721 HPD officers were on pause after either contracting COVID-19 or being forced into isolation due to exposure, or while experiencing symptoms.

There is one documented incident where an officer contracted the virus from a suspect who tested positive for COVID-19.

Under SHOPO’s new contract, the starting annual salary for a Honolulu City Police Officer is $71,656, with new recruits beginning their training at HPD’s Ke Kula Makai Training Academy earning $68,934.

Through fiscal 2025, pay increases under the contract are expected to cost Oahu taxpayers more than $136 million. The first 5% pay rise is retroactive to July 1, with 5% increases every July 1 through 2024.

The previous starting salary for a rookie cop in the big city was $68,244 base pay.

In 2024, officers will also receive a one-time lump sum bonus of between $1,800 and $2,000 as part of the agreement.

In addition to the base salary, officers receive a differential for night work and are paid overtime at 1.5 times the base hourly rate. There is an overtime meal allowance and a subsidized vehicle allowance for qualified officers.

Police officers assigned to specific roles within the department may receive a hazard pay. For example, officers receive an additional 25% of their base salary if their duties involve driving a police motorcycle.

Officers are also eligible to perform special duties, such as security and traffic control, and earn between $50 and $85 an hour.

Source