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Honolulu Police Department academy grads poised to partner with veteran officers

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - 9/16/2022

Sep. 16—Police recruit Branin Moore of Kapolei wanted to become a Honolulu police officer to make a difference in the community.

Police recruit Branin Moore of Kapolei wanted to become a Honolulu police officer to make a difference in the community.

"I care about where I live, " said Moore, 22, who is among 13 recruits who recently completed six months of rigorous training at Ke Kula Makai Police Academy in Waipahu. A graduation ceremony was to be held today at Moanalua High School's Performing Arts Center for the 203rd police recruit class.

Recruits in the graduating class come from various backgrounds, ranging from retail supervisor to former flight attendant and military service member. As newly sworn officers, the recruits will partner with veteran officers in the Honolulu Police Department's Field Training and Evaluation Program. Upon completing the program, officers will be assigned to foot patrol in Waikiki and downtown Hono ­lulu as well as other assignments, according the police academy website.

In an effort to address HPD's ongoing officer staffing shortage, Honolulu police Maj. Mike Lambert, head of the Honolulu Police Department's Ke Kula Makai Training Division, said recruit classes are starting every two months instead of every three months. Currently, HPD has about 350 vacancies. As of Aug. 1 the Police Department has 1, 829 sworn officers.

Lambert described training at Ke Kula Makai as intense. "As much as we test your mind throughout the day, in the afternoon we test your body. And that combination can be exhausting, " he said. "A lot of the things we do here is to simulate adversity. And what we do that for is to test their stress levels and their ability to handle this difficult job."

Learning laws pertaining to arrests as well as firearm and driver training are included in the program. Of the driving training portion, police academy instructor Sgt. Jayme Daszek said it's a different type of driving from "your everyday driving " in that it involves skills such as precise steering and quick multitasking, such as to activate sirens and lights and respond to the police radio while on the road.

Lambert said police training has evolved to be more "situational appropriate " in areas such as providing aid to people with mental illnesses. "In the'80s there wasn't a push for law enforcement to understand the challenges of mental health, " he said.

Recruit Molly Witt, 36, who is six weeks into training at the academy, said she wanted to join the police force because she always wanted to make a difference in people's lives. "I want to use my life experience to help others that may be in need or going through something that I can help them with or empathize with them."

Witt, whose long-term goal is to become a detective, said, "I knew coming in that it was going to be a lot physically and mentally, " She added, "Every day there's something new and I really enjoy that."

Prior to joining the academy, Witt worked as a dispatcher at the Police Department, where she gained a general sense of the various sorts of cases police officers respond to.

Recruit Jordan Schneider, 30, who is three months into training and said becoming a police officer is something she has long wanted to do, said the academy requires more physical training than many people would expect. "It's really great because it means that we're going to be extra prepared out on the road, " said Schneider, whose goal is to be a police officer with HPD's Narcotics /Vice Division and SWAT team.

Regarding the recruits graduating today, Lambert said they should be proud of themselves for making it through training. "We do maintain ... the highest standards in the country, " he said, adding that serving as a police officer is a rewarding career, a difficult career and a career of sacrifice.

Recruit Courtney Goodness, 34, who worked at the state Division of Financial Institutions before joining the police academy about three months ago, said it was his childhood dream to become a police officer. "Just wanting to do some good in the world, particularly in the community that I grew up in and lived in, " Goodness said. "Each day is definitely a journey."


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