Kaua‘i’s police patrolling reality

In response to Juan Wilson’s Island Breath commentary “KPD policy: Part two n patrolling,” June 7:

I appreciate your attempt to correlate a report done in 1972, which was based in the very urban setting of Kansas City, with Kaua‘i, but is it really relevant 35-plus years later and on a rural island like Kaua‘i?

Nice attempt, but it just doesn’t work. By the way, Kansas City, Mo. had a population of 500,000 and Kansas City, Kansas had a population of 168,000 during the time in question and both were in dense urban settings where police could foot-patrol connecting areas of the city. New York City, or any other city with various precincts and/or substations in each area of responsibility, where numerous men on foot could patrol a contained section of city blocks, is the type of setting these ideas may apply. And listen, I’m all for foot patrol in dense population settings where an area can be covered in that way, but this is not representative of Kaua‘i, is it? So which Kansas City were you relating us to? Because it can’t relate. And you are right, the survey they made didn’t change anything, because both Kansas City Police Departments operate fleets of a hundred vehicles or more currently.

They, like most all police departments across this nation, understand the need to respond to crucial situations in an expedient manner. That’s why they have the little blue lights on the tops of their cars, with the little “woo woo” sound, to let people know that they are on their way to an emergency. Your “Harvard” sociologist police officer, who wrote a book, is just one of over 800,000 officers across our country. Writing a book and going to Harvard does not make one an “expert” by any means. These apparently are his personal conclusions, which is fine for (once again) inner-city Baltimore, but not a rural island like Kaua‘i. I would also want to hear what the other 800,000 officers across this country have to say about your ideas? What do they think? What about your own police? Because they too are the experts, the guys who are out there every day, right?

Look, here is the reality: Kaua‘i is a rural and very spread out island. We simply don’t have the manpower or the finances to support one or two officers per neighborhood, per shift, per week, island-wide with substations and equipment. But you’re more than welcome to petition the mayor or the County Council about your request.

Hey, I’m all for the Mayberry RFD lifestyle, where you, me, Barney Fife and Sheriff Andy are strolling down Rice Street talking about the Friday night football game and we stop by Aunt Bee’s house for some apple pie, or Portuguese bean soup. Where the biggest problem the town is facing is that Opey is cutting class to go fishing and they have a town drunk. I want that, Wilson, but the reality is, it’s not where we are at, nor does anyone believe we’re at that place either. Kaua‘i is a beautiful and wonderful place to live, but we still have crime and we still have large spaces to cross to get from one side of town to another, from one neighborhood to another. It takes vehicles and ones that can move fast to accommodate emergency situations.

You said it yourself after quoting from two studies in (yes, urban areas) Flint, Mich. and Newark, N.J., (how they correlate to Kaua‘i, I don’t know) that foot patrol had little effect on crime, but made people in the neighborhood feel safe. I tend to think the people of Kaua‘i feel safe knowing that we can respond to them in a timely manner if an emergency arises, rather than wondering if the beat cop can make it from Salt Pond to Hanapepe Heights in time to stop a fight or a robbery. Or, if a Segway is going to run out of power half way up the hill.

Because we do live on a rural island, our officers are not only out in the community, but are part of our community. They don’t hole themselves up in their houses after work. Both on and off duty, they are present. They regularly attend community meetings and events, coach our children in sports, are active members in our churches, participate in fundraisers, charity events, are in our high schools, volunteer their time and are very much involved with the people of Kaua‘i. They are there to talk to and to say hello to like everyone else. But, truth be told, walking the beat or patrolling on Segways or horseback on a spread out community structure like we have is just not practical, so we use vehicles. And they don’t use them just to give people tickets like you have insinuated, but rather are used to meet the policing needs of our island, be it tickets, pursuit, response or patrol.

And, like you alluded to, KPD also has a good “Police Pursuit Policy” already in place, which basically gives our officers the option to make decisions on their own. Basically if the risk of injury to an officer, or a member of the public, outweighs the offense, the pursuit is terminated. The pursuit is also monitored by a superior who can terminate the pursuit at any time, as well.

As for KPD staying green or environmentally friendly, the chief and the department have already been in the process of looking at hybrid electric-type vehicles for our department. It has been something looked at in the past and is being looked into currently, because gas use and vehicle expenses are part of the budget that the Police Department and commission monitors, as well. Unfortunately it takes money to make money, or in this case, to save money and Kauai County simply doesn’t have the money to swap out a fleet of police cars, as much as we’d like to do it.

Which brings me to my final point: If you are so overly concerned about “gas guzzling” vehicles and saving our county money, why are you focusing only on the Police Department? They are just one entity in this county that uses cars and gas. Why not focus on all county vehicles? Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, sanitation, etc …

It seems like you just got a problem with KPD and this is the real issue. After all the fuss, Wilson, I hope you are driving in an electric cart, or riding a horse yourself. That would only be right.

• Tom Iannucci is the chair of the Kaua‘i County Police Commission and a resident of ‘Ele‘ele.


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