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How to Become a Police Officer in Hawaii

Known for its beautiful landscapes and warm climate, Hawaii is an attractive place to start a career in law enforcement. In addition to its inviting locale, Hawaii has one of the lowest state unemployment rates in the nation, at 4.1%.1 Over 3,200 sworn personnel work in Hawaii’s seven major law enforcement agencies, many of which are increasing the number of sworn officers on duty.2 Though the state legislature has considered standardizing police requirements, Hawaii is the only US state that does not currently have a statewide police standards board, which means that the requirements to become a Hawaii police officer vary by agency and jurisdiction. However, most law enforcement agencies in Hawaii have similar basic standards, which you will find outlined below.

Hawaii Police Officer Requirements

Three of Hawaii’s law enforcement agencies – the Honolulu Police Department, the Hawaii County Police Department, and the Maui County Police Department – are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA), and the Kauai Police Department is currently seeking CALEA accreditation.

To achieve and maintain CALEA accreditation, agencies must adhere to a number of standards that apply to those who wish to become a police officer. These include provisions that officer candidates must complete:

  • A medical examination
  • Psychological screening
  • A background investigation which includes verification of qualifying credentials, a review of any criminal record, and verification of at least three personal references
  • A POST basic mandate training course

In addition, sworn officers must comply with state laws regarding the carrying of firearms. As a result, the minimum age to become a police officer in Hawaii is 21, and applicants may not have any domestic violence convictions on their records. However, certain jurisdictions may begin the hiring process with recruits who are 20 years of age; the Honolulu Police Department, for example, hires recruits at the age of 20 so long as those recruits are 21 at the time of graduation from training.

Other common requirements for Hawaii police officers include:

  • Holding a valid driver’s license
  • Holding a high school diploma or GED, though some jurisdictions accept substantial equivalents
  • Ability to prove US citizenship, though some jurisdictions accept applications from non-citizens with employment authorization

Hawaii Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

Due to its geography, Hawaii does not have a state highway patrol structured as a single unit as do other states in the contiguous US. Instead, police departments within each of the five counties in the state take responsibility for highway patrol within county boundaries. As there are currently no statewide standards for police officers, requirements for those who wish to become Hawaii trooper or highway patrol officers vary by jurisdiction.

County of Maui

The Uniformed Services Bureau of the County of Maui Police Department includes six patrol districts. In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, the Maui PD had 449 total personnel.5 The Maui PD continually recruits for police officers for highway patrol and other duties, and seeks candidates who:

  • Are at least 20 years of age
  • Are US citizens, nationals, or permanent resident aliens; or who otherwise qualify for unrestricted US employment and can become Hawaii residents within 30 days of hire
  • Meet physical agility requirements, including vision correctable to 20/20
  • Possess a valid driver’s license equivalent to the State of Hawaii Type 3 license
  • Can pass the department’s standardized psychological, polygraph, and written exams

Hawaii Police Department

The Hawaii Police Department serves the County of Hawaii, which encompasses the area popularly known as the “Big Island.” Recruitment for new officers for patrol and other duties is periodic on an as-needed basis. To become a police officer in Hawaii County, candidates must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be a US citizen by birth or naturalization, a permanent resident alien, or otherwise have federal eligibility for US unrestricted employment
  • Possess a Hawaii driver’s license or its class equivalent from another state
  • Have education and experience substantially equivalent to a high school diploma
  • Meet physical agility requirements, including vision correctable to 20/20
  • Meet state and federal laws for carrying firearms, which requires that candidates have no convictions for domestic violence

Hawaii Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Unlike in most other states, counties in Hawaii do not appoint sheriffs or sheriff’s deputies. Instead, sheriff’s duties for are performed by the state-level Department of Public Safety (DPS) Sheriff Division. The DPS Sheriff Division is divided into several sections, including warrants, capitol patrol, executive protection, and the Honolulu Airport. Sections are also established for DPS sheriff’s deputies working on the islands of Hilo, Kona, and Kauai, in addition to the DPS base on Honolulu. Approximately 2,200 personnel work for the Hawaii DPS, including about 300 sworn officers.2,8

In order to qualify for a sheriff’s deputy position, candidates must:

  • Be a US citizen by birth or naturalization or a permanent US resident
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Be at least 21 years of age and legally able to carry a firearm, which means that applicants may not have any convictions for domestic violence
  • Demonstrate reputable character
  • Submit to a background check and fingerprint-based criminal history investigation
  • Meet the department’s physical agility requirements
  • Have two years of work experience demonstrating the ability to correctly use conventional written English

Police Departments in Hawaii

Approximately 2,890 police and sheriff’s patrol officers work in Hawaii, with the majority working on the most populous island of Honolulu.9 Officers working on Honolulu also earn a slightly higher average annual salary of $60,470, compared to a statewide average annual salary of $58,520.9 Each police department within the state has the latitude to establish its own standards for prospective officers, so those seeking to become a police officer in Hawaii will find that requirements between agencies vary.

Honolulu

The Honolulu Police Department’s jurisdiction encompasses the entire island of Oahu. With 1,933 sworn officers, it is one of the largest police departments in the US.10 Details within the department include criminal investigation, major events, and anti-terrorism intelligence. Chief of Police Louis M. Kealoha has been with the Honolulu PD since 1983 and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, a doctorate in education, and graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico.

The Honolulu PD seeks officer candidates who are at least 20 years of age with legal authorization to work in the US, have an education equivalent to graduation from high school, hold a valid type 3 Hawaii driver’s license, and who meet eligibility requirements to carry firearms.

Kauai

The Kauai Police Department serves the island of Kauai, which includes the cities of Princeville, Waimea, and Kapaa. Of the districts within the Kauai PD, Lihue and Hanalei are the largest by personnel count, with each employing a district commander, three sergeants, and 21 sworn police officers.11 Altogether, the department employs 150 sworn personnel and 50 support personnel.11

Prospective Kauai officers must be 21 years of age, hold a high school diploma or GED, meet eligibility requirements to carry firearms, and hold at least a Class 3 Hawaii driver’s license. Officer candidates must also have good physical condition and the ability to pass a written exam testing English language skills.

Police Training Academies in Hawaii

Due to the geography of Hawaii and the lack of state-level training requirements for new police recruits, police departments in Hawaii typically take responsibility for training new recruits. For smaller police forces, this may involve a greater degree of on-the-job training or facilities-sharing with larger police departments that have established dedicated training academies.

Training academies in Hawaii include:

  • Ke Kula Maka’l Police Academy – Waipahu, HI
  • Kauai Police Department Training Section – Lihue, HI
  • Maui County Police Department – Wailuku, HI

Hawaii Police Jobs Outlook

Job growth for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Hawaii is expected to be moderate from 2012 to 2022, with a projected job growth rate of 3.5%.12 This growth rate is based on an estimated 90 average annual openings for new Hawaii police officers.12 Many of these openings will come from retirement and voluntary resignations, though departments in areas experiencing population growth will likely add new positions to their department rosters.

Though a high school diploma or its equivalent is the standard minimum education for Hawaii police officers, prospective officers should note that earning college credit can increase an applicant’s competitiveness in the hiring process. Having an associate or bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice may also open up opportunities for advancement. Our Police Jobs page can help you find open opportunities and gain a better understanding of common requirements for available police officer positions.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Hawaii

City Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Hawaii-Maui-Kauai Nonmetropolitan Area 410 $63,420
Urban Honolulu 2,020 $65,890

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.9,13

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unemployment Rates for States: https://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm
2. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, 2008: https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/csllea08.pdf
3. West Hawaii Today: http://www.westhawaiitoday.com/news/state-wire/hawaii-legislature-chips-away-reforming-police-forces
4. The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.: http://www.calea.org/content/calea-client-database
5. Honolulu Police Department: http://www.honolulupd.org/
6. Hawaii Police Department: http://www.hawaiipolice.com/
7. Hawaii Department of Public Safety: http://dps.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/PSD-Title231.pdf
8. Hawaii Department of Public Safety: http://dps.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/PSD-ANNUAL-REPORT-2013.pdf
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Hawaii: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm#st
10. Honolulu Police Department: http://www.honolulupd.org/
11. Kauai Police Department: http://www.kauai.gov/default.aspx?tabid=298
12. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
13. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Urban Honolulu, HI: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_46520.htm