Police volunteer program approved by council

The Kaua’i County Council yesterday approved legislation to use volunteers to help police officers to enforce parking laws on private and public properties for resident with disabilities.

At a meeting at the historic County Building, council members said the project would help preserve parking privileges for people who too often are victims of abuse. The council members also said the volunteers would augment county services.

The bill generated opposition from three or four critics. One of them, Richard Stauber, said volunteers will have to accompany police officers in enforcing the law. This would defeat the purpose of freeing officers to tackle more serious crimes, Stauber contended.

But council chairman Ron Kouchi said it was not a case of volunteers being under constant supervision by officers and that volunteers, after training, should be entrusted to do their jobs.

Stauber said liability issues will arise with non-deputized volunteers “going over private property.” “Volunteers can do wrong and volunteers can do wrong on purpose,” Stauber said.

Councilman and mayor-elect Bryan Baptiste said volunteers are civic-minded and capable.

Their willingness help also can help stretch county services, Baptiste said. “I am still not going to apologize for volunteers when the county doesn’t have the resources,” he said.

Under the law, the volunteers would be properly trained before they actually began enforcing the law, county officials said.

Stauber also said the bill is not “well thought out” and needed to go back to committee for reworking, an assessment refuted by Kouchi. He noted many hours have been spent refining the bill, that the legislation is workable and that it can be revised later if the incoming council desires to do so.

Another critic, Glenn Mickens, said finding volunteers will be difficult. Because no pay is involved, people aren’t likely to go through training and run the risk of being verbally or physically abused when they ticket violators.

And for those who do answer the call, they may be “putting on the uniform for the wrong reason,” Mickens said. Once out on the streets, some could turn into a “Jekyll and Hyde,” Mickens said.

Another critic, Andy Parx said a better alternative would be to have people video-tape infractions, reducing the likelihood for confrontations. The evidence can then be used in any court proceedings against violators, Parx said.

The bill now goes to Mayor Maryanne Kusaka for review and action.

In other matters, the council held a public hearing to amend a bill regulating uses at county parks.

Mel Nishihara, who heads the county’s parks and recreation division, which supervises uses at parks, said the bill was prompted by a need to generally enhance and improve the public’s use of the county parks.

Among the key changes:

– Allowing people to lead or let loose dogs or other domestic animals if authorized by the county engineer or his representative on a permit. This way, for instance, dog owners can put on shows or training sessions, Nishihara said.

– Allowing people to use, carry or possess firearms and weapons if approved by the county engineer or his representative by sign or a permit. This would allow the county to keep better track of those who bring firearms and weapons to parks.

– Allowing people to destroy, dig or remove vegetation if approved by the county engineer or his representative on a permit. The amendment intends to protect parks from acts of vandalism or theft.

– Allowing prefabricated “quick tents” no larger than 20 feet by 20 feet for an event or gathering without approval by the county engineer or representative on a permit.

This would prevent a congregation of tents at parks and would open the way for people to obtain permission to use larger tents, in certain instances, within a park, Nishihara said.

– Prohibit the use of audio devices, musical instrument and generators unless approved by the county engineer or his representative on a permit.

This would allow for better county control on the use of devices at parks, reducing situations where conflicts may arise, Nishihara said.

– Allowing use of rollers skates, roller blades and skateboards.

Testifying against the bill, Stauber contended the legislation was tied to earlier proposals to close county parks at night.

Parx testified some of the language related to powers of the county engineer and his or her representative and permit conditions had to be cleaned up.

A public hearing also was held on a council bill to appropriate $300,000 in unappropriated surplus funds to be used for Kaua’i County’s pro-rata share and other election expenses for a special election to fill a congressional seat left by the late U.S. Representative Patsy Mink.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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