Hundreds of outstanding warrants, 23 open positions

With roughly 700 felony warrants outstanding and unserved, meaning those accused of crimes are roaming free, the best methodology on how to solve the issue remains split.

In the meantime, there is an 180-day window within which suspects can be served, otherwise, they will be automatically exculpated.

Prosecuting Attorney Craig DeCosta, who has served on a task force to address the problem of unserved warrants, said though the issue is pressing on Kaua‘i, the county has the best track record across the state.

“Kaua‘i has the lowest percentage of unserved warrants of the four counties in Hawai‘i,” DeCosta said. “However, any unserved warrants means that we cannot bring those offenders to court to face the consequences of their crimes.”

Agencies that include police, sheriffs and court administrators need to work more closely together to reduce the amount of new warrants issued through alternative programs such as “project contempt,” which Kaua‘i’s own District Court initiated, DeCosta said.

That program was designed to monitor the age of warrants as well as better ensure the accuracy of information within them, such as addresses, DeCosta said.

Accuracy seems to be an obvious priority, but it’s one of the key errors that needs to be rectified to put a dent in the issue, Assistant Chief Roy Asher said.

“One of the reasons for so many outstanding warrants is that many involve people who no longer live on the island,” he said, noting, “Some have no permanent address or the information we have is outdated or bogus.”

While the task force concluded that beefing-up court staff and the number of sworn officers on the police department would be an integral part in creating a long-term solution to outstanding felony warrants, some county higher-ups are putting pressure on the police department — which currently has 23 open positions — to deal with the issue immediately, with or without staffing issues.

Officials such as County Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho have said police need to prioritize closing the gap between outstanding felony warrants and the number of those arrested — especially for those charged with violent crimes.

Faulting the KPD with focusing on campaigns such as “Click it or Ticket’ — a federally-funded program — Carvalho, who used to prosecute those accused of violent crimes, said the council will back the necessary overtime the KPD needs to get it done.

Arguing unfilled positions in the Kaua‘i Police Department isn’t the problem, County Councilman and former police officer Mel Rapozo said openings have been a long-standing issue.

Rep. James Tokioka (D-Kaua’i), agreed.

“Over the past 10 years, the number of openings hasn’t been less than 20,” he said.

“It’s been difficult to hire police officers, for many reasons — other agencies hire good, qualified applicants. Another reason is it’s just a tough job. When you have officers that get called on (domestic violence calls) to break up a husband and wife and in the fight they turn around and attack the officer, that’s not something many people want to deal with.”

Sgt. Mark Begley, who heads police recruitment, said that the department is in the middle of a seven-week campaign to gather a pool of poli ce candidates. The campaign includes full-color newspaper ads, prime time TV spots and Internet ads on Web sites such as, he said.

Several in the department are also hopeful that, despite several police officers having been lured away from the department by agencies such as the Department of Land and Natural Resources, salary increases will help counter those losses.

State of Hawai‘i Organization of Police Officers Kaua‘i Chapter Chairman Bryson Ponce helped negotiate the first salary increase the KPD has seen within the past four years, slated to roll out next month.

The raises , which will mean a first-year officer will make $42,000 annually, will continue to grow by 6 percent annually through June 30, 2011.

If the KPD fills its vacancies and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office were able to add one more deputy, both agencies would work more efficiently to prosecute offenders, DeCosta said.

The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has nine full-time deputy prosecuting attorneys

and one part-time position filled, with an office that handles roughly 150-200 cases a week.

In 2006, the department prosecuted 10,000 criminal cases, DeCosta said, with approximately 500 of them at the felony level.

To further help expedite closing cases, DeCosta said the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is working on putting together a training with the KPD on collection, preservation and testing of evidence that should help in future investigations.

• Amanda C. Gregg, assistant editor/staff write r, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.