Crisis demonstrates need for policy over personalities

On Jan. 23, Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry invited me in to continue our conversation about the accreditation process — a system he said would ensure that department policies and procedures take priority over the whims of chiefs and commanders.

Less than a week later Perry would be put on leave by the mayor, and not be back in uniform for over six weeks. The issue of accreditation seems more important now as leadership deals with internal legal problems and external pressures of the administration.

Perry’s talk has prophetic overtones as he works to put the department back in order.

“When we are gone, whoever takes our place won’t be able to mess the department up and do it their own way,” Perry said. “The policies and procedures will be in place and no matter what the next leader wants to do, the procedures won’t allow that.”

KPD maintains a file for more than 500 standards for policies and training.  For the past two years the department has prepared for a national accreditation of standards — an effort not to duplicate other law enforcement agencies, but to ensure a system is in place that is efficient and accountable.

The three-year accreditation process started in February, the day the application was processed by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The department submitted the application after the Kaua‘i County Council approved the $35,000 application fee.

Over the next three years the department will continue its work with occasional visits from CALEA consultants to review and advise on progress. If all goes well, the KPD will receive its accreditation at the national conference in 2015 —or sooner, said Perry, noting they have worked hard over two years to get a jump on the program.

Deputy County Attorney Justin Kollar, who attended a CALEA conference in Cincinnati last summer, is leading the effort to design a system of crime prevention capabilities, standardized training, management procedures, personnel policies and interagency coordination.

Kollar said policing is the high-risk agency of county government for its day-to-day activities involving public safety and the inevitability of making choices regarding the civil rights of citizens. Reducing police-related liabilities is a sound investment that pays for itself, he added.

For the past 27 months, Police Lt. Jon Takamura and officer Jason Matsuoka have worked with Kollar on the pre-assessment effort. It’s more than just putting together a good filing system.

Takamura said the assessment requires that leadership and personnel understand policies and procedures thoroughly, and that they know where to look when they have a questions. They must demonstrate it as a way of life for the department.

“Its a blueprint for success,” Takamura said. They will have to continue the process and have to update it every three years.”

Expansion plans

The CALEA process is perhaps essential for a department that is planning to expand by at least 14 officers and add two new beats within three years. The department expanded only two beats in the same 30-year period that the island’s population nearly doubled.

The demographics today points to a younger population. The number of people and vehicles on the roads have also increased, as has crime trends.

Perry said there should be 10 more beats. Traffic enforcement is  No. 1, he said, to include enforcing safe speeds, ensuring small children are in adequate restraints, and that drivers aren’t using cell phones or intoxicated.

“The bottom line is safety,” he said.

People see a police department like an iceberg, Perry said. Very little is visible, while most of the work is going on behind the scenes.

The work they do is not just to respond to calls, but to investigate crimes and ensure their work will aid prosecutors in court. They also work closely with state and federal police agencies and the Department of Corrections.

The steps involved in including the community in public safety are numerous and small at first. A planned community police academy would prepare neighborhood watch groups to safely report crimes to police.

The police have a wealth of public safety issues to address in the community through outreach education and awareness efforts.

“We are not miracle workers,” Perry said.

Kollar said community input is part of the assessment process. This will include public confidential communications with the assessor to get a sense of the relationship with the police and recommendations to improve.

“That is where the public is involved, and there is no certificate until the assessors are satisfied that the department is working in harmony to a degree with the community as part of that process,” Kollar said.

Best practices

Perry said there will always be some people who distrust the police and any type of authority. He said it is not possible to address every circumstance or conspiracy that people believe is true.

The goal is to have the community confident that the police department is doing what it should when it should, Perry said. The accreditation process is to ensure best practices are in place, and that there is transparency and accountability if anything should go wrong.

“That is what this is basically all about,” he said. “We are held under a magnifying glass and we want to be there. We have nothing to hide.”

Perry was a major and head of the juvenile division at the Honolulu Police Department when they underwent the process. He said it is more about consistency and of how things are done than with mimicking other departments. “That is where CALEA is helpful,” he said.

Just when KPD is to be certified will be up to the 21 CALEA commissioners, current or retired law enforcement professionals, criminal justice professionals, educators, and judicial or elected officials.

• Tom LaVenture can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or tlaventure@thegardenisland.com.

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