Hawai‘i Island police chief seeks council help to grow department by adding additional positions

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Hawai‘i Island police chief believes he will come close to filling the department’s 89 vacant sworn officer positions in the next couple of years with his new recruiting efforts but is looking to Hawai‘i County Council for some help.

99th Recruit Class Live Fire shooting. Photo courtesy: Hawai‘i Island police

Hawai‘i Island Police Chief Ben Moszkowicz is asking the council for 33 temporary police officer I positions, allowing the department to increase the number of recruits they can pay while in training. This would bring the number of positions up to 100.

The council is scheduled to discuss Resolution 437-24 during its Finance Committee meeting today at 10 a.m.

“With our current pipeline of recruits and new applicants, I expect to be close to 100% of sworn positions being filled – between trainees and permanent employees – within the next 18 months,” Moszkowicz said. “We expect to continue our three-times-per-year hiring and training schedule until all positions are filled with permanent employees.”

Moszkowicz wants to create more temporary positions now before the start of the July recruit class.

As of January, the department had 395 permanently filled positions. There are 26 currently in various stages of recruit training, 19 in the classroom and seven in field training. Based on current recruiting and testing efforts, the chief expects another class starting July 16 will have 30 additional new officers.

  • Officer Domingo teaching Defensive Tactics or Arrest Control Techniques to 98th Recruit Class. Photo courtesy: Hawai‘i Island police
  • 99th Recruit Class Live Fire shooting. Photo courtesy: Hawai‘i Island police
  • Sgt Ryan Pagan instructing Firearms for 99th Recruit Class. Photo courtesy: Hawai‘i Island police
  • 99th Recruit Class. Photo courtesy: Hawai‘i Island police

New recruits are hired as police officer I, which is a temporary position pending their year-long classroom, in-field training and a probation period as long as it’s not extended. Once fully sworn in, recruits are promoted to police officer II making that police officer I position available for an incoming recruit.

Currently, there are 67 temporary positions. The county has the police officer I salary posted at $72,384. Salaries from vacant police officer II positions are used to cover those salaries and approval of the proposed resolution wouldn’t require additional funding.

Moszkowicz, who took up the chief mantle in January 2023, said one of his top priorities was getting the force fully staffed. To do that, he implemented a plan to offer year-round recruitment as opposed to only offering two 10-day windows a year that a person could apply to be a police officer, which was common practice for years.

The first recruit class from this new policy, started in November 2023 There are currently 19 recruits, each tying up temporary positions till November 2024 when they’ve completed all training.

Officer Kenison Wayne said there is a need to get more patrol officers on the road.


Wayne, who is a training officer, said there is a lack of personnel to cover beats if and when an emergency strikes. This is especially true for large rural areas like Puna.

If multiple officers are needed on a call and additional resources from other areas respond, it leaves those communities with no coverage.

Additionally, there’s the concern of burning new officers out who often work 12-hour days.

With year-round recruitment, the department has been able to start more recruit classes. The drawback, Wayne said is there isn’t enough room to train the officers in the various stages they’re in.

“We’re taking people who are civilians and we have to train their minds that it’s not a normal job,” Wayne said.


And, for the first time in the department’s history, six recruits who are scheduled to start training in April, were hired to fill the newly created police services officer positions.

Moszkowicz said they are considered early hires, adding: “I don’t want them to get hired by someone else.”

Wayne said this new position allows recruits to see what academy training is like, familiarize themselves with the department and build teamwork.

Many of the vacant sworn positions in the department are Police Officer II which were created in 2019 but never filled.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
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