POSTED: 28 MAY 2008 - 8:00am HST

Big Island Police Trouble

image above: The Ford Crown Victoria police vehicle... Standard of the industry.

by Ree Flickinger on 28 May 2008 in
Editor, West Hawaii Today

The Hawaii County Police Department has made clear over the years that it does
not want marked police cars. Neither does its union, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. Both have gone on record in this regard.

When directed to purchase a trial group of marked cruisers, the department again showed its disdain for the idea — at the expense of this island's taxpayers — and the sentiment remains, reflected by Assistant Chief Paul Ferreira's comment: "We didn't seek the funding."

As reported last week, thanks to a petulant department's skill at malfeasance and creative bid writing that limits bidders and options — at our expense — Hawaii
County is paying $62,000 for each of the Ford Crown Victoria cruisers most recently ordered. The bid precluded off-island bidders and generally restricted bids
to one vehicle manufacturer.

This $62,000 price, with shipping factored in, cost $29,000 more than similarly equipped Crown Victoria vehicles of the same year purchased by a police department in Colorado.

If the goal of the department was to show the county cannot afford a marked fleet of patrol cars, that was not accomplished.

What has been established is a twofold revelation, the most important of which is
critical, the most obvious is nearly laughable. Obviously, whether its money for cars or cash in evidence storage, the Hawaii County Police Department cannot be
expected to act accountably around money.

More importantly, however, if our Police Department can conduct itself in such a transparently irresponsible and unethical fashion in a matter that is subject to public scrutiny, imagine what transpires in those matters where the public has no oversight or view.

It is accepted and apparent that the present Hawaii County Police Commission has no practical oversight over the department, a finding supported strongly by
public comments made by former commissioner and former 3rd Circuit Court
Judge Paul De Silva.

If the department cannot be trusted to act in the public's interest in the simple matter of marked patrol cars, the public can only expect similar unethical behavior in other aspects of departmental operations. And given the total lack of oversight
and disclosure, as well as the fact that the Police Department "investigates"
itself, this is a closed system that is fertile ground for abuse.

We are aware that the police union is a powerful voice: Where else but in Hawaii could a union convince legislators to pass a law making it illegal to release the name and infraction of a police officer who is subject to reprimand? That most
common public disclosure elsewhere is here an illegal act: One more closed door.

It would be heartening to trust and believe that those whose role is to enforce our laws operate ethically within that function. However, history has proven — epeatedly — that power can and will often lead to corruption.

Full oversight, even by another independent governmental body granted true authoritative powers, is a welcome palliative to corruption and abuse.

If the response to this is that there is no corruption or abuse within the Police Department system, then the corresponding and mandatory counter response is clear: How do we know? Because they say so?

Owing to the public funding process and directive associated with the marked patrol car acquisition, we have a clear window into how the department can operate within the legal parameters of fulfilling a public mandate but well outside
the boundaries of sound judgment, good policy, public accountability and ultimately ethics.

The police car price tag should result in several clear and decisive actions by the
administration and council.

The council should immediately draft a Hawaii County Charter Amendment to be placed upon the November ballot that will allow the voters of this island to decide if
we do need oversight of their Police Department, if there should be a newly
constituted and elected Hawaii County Police Commission with full powers, oversight and responsibility of overall police operations. It should draft a measure that will ensure the public interest is represented foremost and that the Police Department has a higher authority to whom it must answer.

The county should also attempt to recover from this bid fiasco and disallow any similarly irresponsible future proposal be similarly drafted, approved and sent out.

A review of other past bids is likely in order as well.

Failure of either or both the executive and legislative branches to act on this clear
effrontery to the residents of this island will be a clear indicator in the complicity
by either or both branches of county government in this malfeasance.

It will be very telling to see if voters are pleased with the mayor and council turning a blind eye to a Police Department that behaves as a petulant child, needlessly wasting public money "to make a point," and show such utter disregard for its core duty and responsibility: to serve the public.

see also:
Island Breath: Kauai Police Mission Debate 5/26/08
Island Breath: TGI #30: The Kauai Police Mission 5/24/08
Island Breath: Security overreaction now the norm 5/14/08
Island Breath: Dangers of Tasers 5/10/08
Island Breath: KPD Overreact in Hanapepe 5/6/08
Island Breath: Protect and Serve - Not terrify! 4/5/08
Island Breath: Lingle Plan for Police State

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