LIHU’E — Kaua’i Police Commissioner Carol Furtado on Friday denounced plans county legislators have approved to create a committee whose members would investigate those in the Kaua’i Police Department.
The investigation would look into cost-overruns of more than $332,000 in overtime pay for fiscal year 2004- 2005, complaints about misuse of federal funds by some officers, and other complaints.
Speaking at a Police Commission meeting held in the second-floor council chambers of the historic County Building, Furtado said she had no problems with the “idea of an investigation” raised by members of the Kaua’i County Council, but felt the probe should be done by an independent body.
“If we are indeed doing a fair and equitable investigation, I believe it should be done by an outside source (to avoid a perception problem by the public and KPD officers),” Furtado said.
Furtado made her declaration before she was elected as the new chairperson of the police commission, replacing Commissioner Michael Ching, whose year-long term expired this month. Russell Grady, who joined the Police Commission this year, was elected vice chairman.
The Kaua’i County Charter empowers members of the council to assemble an investigative body comprised of all seven council members, and to probe the workings of KPD.
Until recently, that power had never been used.
Council members passed a resolution calling for the investigation amid concerns about a KPD costoverrun of $332,000 in overtime pay for fiscal year 2004-05, more cost overruns on the same matter in the current fiscal year, alleged misuse of federal and county funds by police officers, and numerous citizen claims and complaints against police officers.
Furtado said she had issues with language in parts of the resolution that called for members of the investigating council committee to be comprised of “the entire membership of the council, who are members of the (council’s) Committee of the Whole, and the same committee apparently being able to adjudicate once the investigation is competed.”
She said she may be misunderstanding or misreading the language of that part of the resolution, but noted, “I don’t believe that is proper.”
Outgoing commission Chairperson Ching allowed the resolution issue to remain on future Police Commission agendas, as a way to monitor the probe.
Council members have said the probe will start up early next month.
The council members also said that, while the investigative powers rest with members of the council, they have no power to remove KPD Chief K.C. Lum.
Only members of the Police Commission, who are currently evaluating Lum’s job performance, have that power.
Furtado’s assessment drew support from Kaua’i residents Glenn Mickens and Richard Stauber.
“Since the council has already gone on record before Ho’ike (Kaua’i Public Television, Inc.) saying, amongst other things, that Chief Lum is not qualified to do his job, how can this investigative body possibly render a fair and unbiased judgment of what they are investigating?” said Mickens before members of the Police Commission Friday.
Mickens said that the way the investigative process of the KPD has been set up, “there would be no due process for the defending party or parties.”
Mickens added that, whether or not anyone wants to make a case that Lum can’t do his job, “he was democratically appointed to the position.”
Stauber said he supported the council resolution in principle, but wondered how members of the council, whom he described as being “corrupt,” investigate a law-enforcement agency he said is “less corrupt.”
“How can a body which is perceived by the public to be corrupt investigate another body which is allegedly less corrupt than the other?” he said. “So I struggled there.”
He said he “hasn’t figured yet how the county can investigate itself.”
Stauber has filed a complaint with officials in the state Office of Information Practices (OIP), contending the council members have not complied with the state sunshine law (open-meetings law) by not releasing minutes of a closed-door, executive-session meeting in January where a KPD matter was discussed.
Council members contend the matters were confidential because they relate to KPD employees. Stauber and the OIP staff members disagree.
Lum made a presentation at the meeting indicating the department’s officers are doing fine, despite some officers publicly saying they aren’t satisfied with Lum’s leadership.
Lum said one way to measure morale in the KPD is to check for “sick-leave abuse.”
“If you don’t want to come to work because of some godforsaken reason, because the (work) environment isn’t good, you will call in sick,” he said. “You will have sick-leave abuse.”
That happens in large organizations “over and over again,” he said.
Another measurement of high morale in the department is productivity, and officer productivity is good, Lum continued.
Lum said members of the Police Commission and public should take note of the large numbers of citations KPD officers have issued, the progress of work by detectives, the “huge” number of drug confiscations that have occurred, and ongoing KPD-generated projects to fight drug use and crime.
Crime is down, he said.
“This last one (report or trend) we just got in May was minus 26 percent,” he said. “I haven’t seen double-digit in the twenties, in the negative, since I came into the department,” said Lum, who has been with KPD for a little more than 20 years.
If morale were bad in the police department, “these things would not happen,” Lum said.
“But, of course, you will have disgruntled employees,” Lum said. “But if you have that mixed up with morale-build-ing, then I don’t know what to say.”
Lum said a tangible measure of poor morale is “abusive sick leave and poor productivity,” and “I don’t think I have either.”
Kaua’i Police Commissioner Leon Gonsalves Sr. didn’t agree, noting that the number of KPD officers going on sick leave will be low because “I think the guys are professional enough to know that they are already short (handed).”
Gonsalves, a retired KPD sergeant, asked, “Why are they going to hurt their fellow officers by calling in sick?”
“I think that is what a lot of guys are saying, ‘We aren’t going to call in sick,’ because of that,” Gonsalves said. “You may have a few who will do that. But I think the majority is saying ‘we short as it is. Why am I gong to hurt my partner?'”
Gonsalves said he was driven by that thought when he was on the police force.
“I was there, and you not going to call in sick, and one of the beat partners get hurt because of you,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves said KPD officers are not going to call in sick because “they are upset or whatever. They will continue to work. Or move on, transfer.”
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or firstname.lastname@example.org.