Police Commission holds 1st meeting of 2013, talks budget, marijuana, arrest policies
LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Police Commission held its first meeting of the year with new board leadership in place.
Commission Chair James O’Connor said all the commissioners are returning from 2012, and three commissioners have been re-appointed to a three-year term by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. Those commissioners are O’Connor, Ernest Kanekoa Jr. and Bradley Chiba.
Commission Vice Chair Charles Iona and commissioners Randy Francisco, Alfredo Nebre Jr. and Donald Okami Sr. continue to serve in their current appointments.
“We are committed to the duties and responsibilities of our position and we look forward to fulfilling them this year,” O’Connor said. “This may go down as a banner group.”
Arrest to prosecution disparity
In Chief of Police Darryl Perry’s report, he said that in the past two months, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney has declined to prosecute 84 cases involving 65 defendants. Perry said the court’s standard of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt is higher than the standard to make an arrest, but that this big of a disparity needs to be addressed.
Perry said there are daily briefings and annual recall workshops to update officers on laws and changes to policies and procedures.
“Our position is that if we are not doing what is necessary then we have to know what these deficiencies and (limitations) are,” Perry said. “We will be working on that with Justin (Kollar) to ensure that everything is right to bring cases forward to the prosecutors.”
Commissioner Francisco said there are many variables involved when an officer is deciding if an arrest should be made, and that there may be a need for additional training and information. He said the department should do whatever is necessary to help increase the rate of arrests to prosecution.
Perry said he is speaking with other island police departments on how to respond to a communication from the State Attorney General’s office regarding an open records request form asking for a list of all registered hand gun and rifle owners in the state of Hawai‘i.
“We are working together with the County Attorney’s office and the Attorney General to see how best to address this issue,” Perry said.
“This type of exposure would place gun owners in harm’s way and they may become victims themselves. This is not only us but the whole state.”
Commissioner Iona said the public should be aware that police need to make split second decisions during a situation, and that it would not be good to further encumber an officer with a multitude of checklists to hinder an arrest for suspicion of the commission of a crime.
“To cause a delay in the process could place the officer in danger,” Iona said.
Perry noted that two new police dispatch operators started training on Tuesday. He said the department wants to fill several positions that remain vacant under a county hiring freeze.
“These are not essential positions or equipment, but they are what every department needs to function properly,” Perry said. “We will make do, but you should understand the situation and we ask the public to be patient.”
Perry said the budget outlook is dismal and that the department is trying to control expenses in administration and programs. Efforts include cutting overtime and all travel that does not involve essential certifications or is not funded by grants.
With a new burglar alarm bill going into effect on Feb. 21, Perry said a part-time duty position would be required to handle the task of issuing warnings and possible fines to homes and businesses that have a frequency of false alarms. He would prefer a full-time position that involves other duties.
Commissioner Francisco said that the culture of the department has significantly changed under Perry’s leadership and that the county council should understand the need for a mission statement of the department to match its goals and budget.
“Words are great but it is action that follows, and as commissioners we need to articulate the budget to the program and vice versa,” Francisco said.
The chief’s report continued on the topic of marijuana.
Perry said the ongoing effort of legal marijuana groups has been to have the federal government remove it as a Schedule 1 drug, which is what makes possession a serious offense.
The state legislature is currently considering House Bill 77, which transfers department jurisdiction of medical marijuana from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health. He said he is working with other island chiefs of police on a position that is in alignment with recent state and federal enforcement decisions.
Police Commissioners Conference
Kaua‘i will host the state of Hawai‘i Police Commissioners Conference, tentatively set for May 23-24. The location and agenda are not yet finalized.
Iona said the planning committee would do well to contact the other commissions to see what they would want or need as workshops or presentations to help justify the expense.
“We don’t want an event where nobody shows up and we want to make sure there is something they need to attend, from speakers, the theme or topics to make it worthwhile for everyone to come here,” Iona said.
The next Police Commission meeting is scheduled on Feb. 22 at 9 a.m. at the Mo‘ikeha Building in Meeting Room 2A/2B.
Kaua‘i Police Commission Chair James O’Connor’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.