Father to join son as fellow Honolulu police officer

Wendell Ko will join the Honolulu Police Department seven years after his son, Jonathan, did the same

Nina Wu
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

HONOLULU — There are many sons who follow in the footsteps of their fathers in joining the Honolulu Police Department. Now a father is joining his son at HPD at the age of 58.

Wendell Ko of Pearl City graduates with the 193rd police recruit class today, and soon will join the Police Department about seven years after his son Jonathan Ko did the same.

“I think he can do it, even at the age of 58,” said Jonathan Ko, who works in District 8, serving Kapolei. “He’s in good physical shape. … I think he’s ready for service.”

Ko, 28, warned his dad the job can be stressful and demanding, but was proud to see him get through the challenges of training, both physically and mentally.

Wendell Ko will be among a graduating class of 38 recruits from diverse backgrounds, including a former accountant, teacher, baker, social worker, dog handler, emergency medical technician, flight attendant, private investigator and military service members.

The newly minted officers will now go through a field training and evaluation program in partnership with current ones.

Ko, who is part Native Hawaiian, formerly ran a Plexiglas business as well as a spearfishing and diving shop. He was in semiretirement when he got the flash of inspiration to join HPD.

Both father and son are avid spearfishers who have participated in tournaments across the nation.

“I was working in my garden planting my onions and lettuce, and I was fishing,” he said. “And I said there’s gotta to be more to life than just kicking back and working for myself and doing stuff for myself. Then I decided it will be more fulfilling for me if I went out and served the community.”

Now, he said, he and his son can watch each other’s backs.

Jonathan Ko, the youngest of four siblings, said he was at first surprised when his dad said he wanted to join the Police Department, but once the family understood he was committed, they were behind him 100%.

If you had asked Wendell Ko 20 years ago whether he would be joining the police force, he would never have thought of it.

What motivated him, he said, was a desire to work with the community and to help keep the islands safe. He joins the police force now, he said, with decades of life experience he can bring to the job. Eventually, he would be interested in community policing, and working with youth and the homeless.

There is no age limit for interested police recruits, as long as they are able to pass the physical test, according to Sgt. Brandt Tsuha.

Additionally, HPD is ramping up its recruitment efforts by accepting lateral transfers from other law enforcement agencies. With a lateral transfer, an officer from the mainland or a neighbor island can work at HPD with shortened training and receive compensation for up to nine years of experience.

They include having successfully completed a police academy and 664 hours of general law enforcement training in order to receive a basic course waiver.

The potential applicant must currently be employed as a sworn law enforcement officer at a municipal, city, county or state law enforcement agency with equivalent duties, and have two years of post-academy experience.

There has been some interest from mainland officers, he said, who are originally from Hawaii, as well as from neighbor isles. As of Jan. 2, HPD has filled 1,825 of 2,143 uniformed positions. There are currently 123 recruits in training.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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