Police Week: remembrance and recruitment for the force

LIHU‘E — On the last day of National Police Week, Kaua‘i Police Department officers and staff came together to teach the community what police work is all about.

“I think they need to make people aware of what they do. A lot of it is behind the scenes,” said Dawn Wooten, who helps run the Police Explorers Program.

The Explorers was one of a handful of police and public safety booths set up at Kukui Grove Center on Saturday. Police also provided tours of their Incident Command Vehicle and showcased other equipment. A KPD dog handler also attended.

Intended for teens and young adults from 14 to 21 years old, the Explorers program is part police recruitment and part character building, according to KPD officer Darla Abbatiello.

“They learn to be respectful and professional,” said Abbatiello, who is the police adviser for the Explorers. “Those characteristics make for a good police officer … a good person anyway. That’s what is needed in our society.”

Explorer Tiana Victorino, 16, has been part of the program for a year.

“I always wanted to be a police officer. My grandfather was one, my dad was one,” she said. “So when I heard of this opportunity, I was like ‘Whoa, y’know, I’ve got to do this.’”

Through the Explorers, Victorino said she’s helped police with traffic control and keiki ID, learned about drug abuse, crime prevention and emergency preparedness. They all learn CPR and first aid.

“It’s for them to become police officers,” Wooten said. “That’s the goal.”

At least two from the program went on to become KPD officers, Abbatiello said.

Standing near another booth, Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry said this year’s National Police Week is dedicated to supporting the Hawai‘i Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation, which plans to erect a monument to pay tribute to fallen officers. National Police Week started in 1962 following a resolution by President John F. Kennedy.

“When I got here, I made sure we did recognize our fallen officers,” Perry said, adding that he has known his share from the Honolulu Police Department. “It has a personal significance … the families should all be remembered.”

The Police Week event, he said, honors those men by showing how they lived, in addition to showing the public that there is a face and a personality behind an officer’s badge.

“We are a part of the community,” Perry said.

Such outreach could also assist in recruiting new officers — an important goal for the department. At a recent budget presentation, KPD revealed it has 18 funded yet vacant positions among its ranks.

Although KPD has no reported police deaths in the line of duty, Perry is researching a 1924 incident that could be added to the Memorial Foundation’s list. Four sheriff’s deputies were killed in the line of duty during a labor dispute that resulted in the kidnapping of two men.

• Jessica Musicar, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by e-mailing jmusicar@thegardenisland.com.

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