”’Editor’s note: This is a letter sent out to the Honolulu Police officers.”’

Honolulu Police Department Chief Boisse Correa’s recent decision to dissolve the 3 day/12 hour work shift schedule for police officers and go back to a rotating 5 day/8 hour work schedule is a real quality of life issue for them.

I am sure that the chief has his reasons and has a genuine desire to improve the department. But, all eight districts are in an uproar and I think we may be looking at an unprecedented blow to our department’s morale.

I have never seen so many disgruntled officers in my entire career. The major complaints regarding the loss of the 3/12 is that it would be a huge blow to family income (the cost of living in Hawaii make two jobs or wage supplementation a reality for working families to afford a home and to have good educational opportunities), it would degrade sleep/health conditions (tons of scientific data reveal the health risks associated with shift changes), and it would increase family/childcare conflicts.

As important as these issues may be, I get the impression that all of these factors have not been fully expounded upon and currently are not enough to sway the chief to change his mind.

I think I may have a legal basis to stall the conversion for further review.

Many officers are telling me that they were hired under the belief that the 3/12 was here to stay. We went to the 3/12 in 2000. That is over 5 years of recruit classes that were hired with the idea that they would get to work the 3/12.

That would be the equivalent to something like 400 to 500 officers. What these young officers are telling me is that the department recruiters and HRD personnel led them to believe that the 3/12 was a more-or-less permanent work system. They are saying that HRD used the 3/12 as a selling point to get them to join.

If this is true, and it can be proved, this may involve contract law. Did these 400 to 500 or so employees get hired with the understanding that the 3/12 was a perk of joining HPD?

Did these young officers join the department with the idea that they would get to work under a 3/12 system. Was it a determinant factor when they decided to join?

It seems that many of our young officers were told by recruiters about how great the 3/12 work schedule is. None of these young officers can recall being told or seeing anything in writing that said the 3/12 was only temporary, or that this work schedule could be changed at anytime.

Perhaps we could poll our young officers and compile some information on this. Some of the officers said that they gave up higher paying jobs because they believed they could make enough on the 3/12 to cover the difference. If the 3/12 was part of a verbal contract, or an implied contract, the employer now would have the burden to prove an immediate need to change this operational system.

So, these 400-500 officers have never worked under anything but a 3/12 permanent schedule and they may have been hired under certain conditions without proper explanation that the 3/12 work environment could change suddenly. This could be a legal matter that the SHOPO attorneys could look at.

I could see if the City & County of Honolulu had a countywide emergency like a sudden crime explosion, a natural disaster, or a severe budget crunch which could cause an immediate need for a change in police work schedules.

But the fact is that the chief does not have any compelling exigency to change the work schedule:

*Crime trends are down and HPD patrol arrest statistics are good.

*Neither the mayor’s Office nor the City Council have any complaints regarding the 3/12

*There hasn’t been any statistically significant increase in public complaints with the 3/12 when compared with long-term data of when the department was on the 5/8.

There are undeniable downsides to the 3/12. With any system there exist positive and negative factors. But, most of the reasons for getting rid of the 3/12 schedule that have been given by the chief, are actually supervision and leadership/direction shortcomings. Community policing can be alive and well with the 3/12 schedule. The pros and cons have to be weighed and all issues considered.

I would like to think that the factors above may provide a compelling justification for our union to either ask the mayor to get the chief to temporarily postpone his decision and/or to encourage our union to look into possible legal action.

Either way, it would be great if some unbiased arbitrator or committee can look at all the factors in this situation and provide an objective recommendation to both the chief and the mayor. How about the mayor’s office assigning a non-police panel or task force committee, agreed upon by both the union and the administration. Realistically, our mayor should be concerned about the morale of his city’s uniformed police force.

A mayor’s task force can look at all sides of this situation, and make a recommendation to both our chief and the mayor. Ultimately, the final decision is still out of our hands. The chief may still decide to change our work schedule. But at least our voices would have been heard. At least all the arguments would have been made. This decision will not be made in a vacuum, and will not be made with only one side being heard.

For me, like many of you, I only have a few more years to go. Realistically, any schedule we are placed on is tolerable to me.

But, I do feel bad for those officers with 20+ years to go. I believe we owe it to the next generation of police officers to try and keep the 3/12. It doesn’t make any sense to go back in time and suffer through rotating shifts after our organization has evolved to this point.

Police organizations got the 3/12 work schedule idea from hospitals. Nurses and Emergency Rooms across this nation run on 3/12 systems because of their highly stressful careers. There are justifiable reasons that hospitals use the 3/12. No one would accuse nurses of lacking dedication or being uncommitted because they have 3 or 4 days off. Separating the caregiver from the patient for 3 or 4 days is a good idea. It allows renewed patience and renewed tolerance, and ultimately prevents violence.

Patrol is the backbone of this agency. Our field officers and field supervisors place their lives on the line everyday when they test out. This department should, at least, give them the best working conditions possible.

After 20+ years, I have learned that we have to pick and choose our battles. I think this is a cause worth fighting for. If any or all of you feel strongly about these changes let your voices be heard. You are the Watch Commanders, you are the Unit Commanders. I ask you to do what you can to encourage your Sergeants and your Officers to have their concerns heard. If you think it is appropriate or worthwhile, forward this email to your personnel & associates.

Politicians, the media, community leaders, community organizations, they can all be powerful allies. Have your friends and families make phone calls, write letters, talk to influential people. This is the United States, we have free speech protected by the Constitution. Let us use it.

Be professional, be respectful, … but let your voices be heard.

To quote a famous Jewish saying: “If not you, than who? … If not now, than when?”

”’Lieutenant Kevin Katamoto is a member of the Honolulu Police Department assigned to District 5”’

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