KPD is changing

The Kauai Police Department recently concluded a series of community outreach presentations that were very informative but very sparsely attended. I went to the one in Kalaheo and took my wife to the one in Hanapape. The officers gave heartfelt presentations and were grateful for those of us who did attend. Overall, they left me with an impression of professional individuals dedicated to the safety of Kauai. It was very disappointing to see how few citizens were interested in what KPD had to say — there were more police officers present than attendees.

Kauai’s Citizens must ask themselves, “Are we safe? Are there enough cops?”

I am writing in an attempt to spread the word; to inform Kauai of the tough position KPD finds itself in, so that informed citizens might make a choice concerning the allocation of tax funds by the County Council. This list of “boring facts” is provided to allow each citizen the opportunity to make their own decision on whether or not KPD deserves additional support.

There are several ways to analyze the number of policemen required to serve a given population or area. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) states that using officers per thousand (or officers per square mile) is, “totally inappropriate as a basis for staffing decisions,” and that staffing decisions are very complex requiring “a sizable body of reliable, current data.” However lacking that body of data, officers per thousand population and/or officers per square mile are two ‘easy to understand’ metrics that are often used (even by the FBI). These two metrics can be combined to understand police service requirements.

For example, if a 1,000 square mile area has only one person living in it, there is hardly any need for a police officer. On the other hand, if there are 1,000 people living in one square mile, one or even two officers is hardly enough.

KPD is gathering the statistics that IACP recommends, but the analysis of this data requires time. (And, in my opinion, is more appropriate for a major metropolitan area like Honolulu.) However over the past 10 years, the number of service calls to KPD has roughly doubled. If we assume that staffing levels were correct 10 years ago, then surely we must agree that staffing should have increased over the last 10 years. Kauai has remained stagnant at 161 officers.

KPD now serves an effective population of population of 100,000 in 2015, when tourists are included, or a rate of 1.61 officers per thousand. In 2005 the effective population was about 75,000 (many fewer tourists) or about 2 officers per thousand.

There is no organization that provides a specific recommendation for officers per thousand but having read several articles I feel 2.3/thousand is required to provide adequate service. (NOTE: I considered that Kauai’s population is spread out so this number is reduced from what might actually be required, up to 2.6. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine fewer than of less than 1.9/thousand.) Kauai does not seem to have the staffing needed to provide adequate service to Kauai citizens. About 70 more officers would fill this gap.

An additional consideration is that most police departments across the USA have assistance agreements where officers from another jurisdiction can come to the aid of a police department dealing with an unexpected event. Honolulu officers are hardly going to drive to Kauai and be here in 10 minutes.

I was surprised to find that there are only 10 “beats” on the island. A beat consist of one officer on patrol through his beat or assigned area. If an officer receives a call for service, depending on the nature of the call, he must obtain assistance from the officers in other beats. So, if you see two police cars responding to a situation, that means that one of the beats no longer has an officer available. This is especially important for the “beats on the end of the chain” meaning Hanalei and PMRF. For example, if the Hanalei officer supports the officer in Princeville, there is no one in Hanalei.

If Kauai were to double the number of beats, it would require about 60 more officers.

KPD has made outstanding efforts to streamline their operations. The presentation outlined four or five efforts that I will not discuss here. These efforts are not always well-received by Kauai citizens because they result in the citizen being more responsible for collecting event information (of a crime or a traffic accident or whatever). But this streamlining cannot make up for time required to respond to the additional calls for police service. The result is increased stress on the officers and longer work hours.

This additional stress means retaining veteran officers becomes more difficult. Officer salaries have been increased so they are equivalent to that paid on the West Coast but the salary increase has resulted in 92 percent of KPD’s budget going for salaries. The remaining 8 percent is already oversubscribed, so, having streamlined as much as possible, KPD must now cut service.

Given Kauai’s demands for the police to deal more effectively with certain events such as the recent violence at the Hanalei Pier, cuts in service may not be acceptable to the public. There have been many comments in The Garden Island suggesting KPD is shirking its duties. I think the police department is caught between a “rock and a hard place” and is being crushed by service demands.

Despite these problems, KPD is working hard toward becoming an exemplary police force. KPD has been working for the past several years on obtaining certification from CALEA and has about two years to go. CALEA is the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which was formed in 1979 to improve the delivery of public safety. KPD should be proud of their efforts to achieve certification.

KPD has also instituted some extremely strict hiring practices. The most recent hiring period had about 100 applicants of which only seven have met the high standards set by KPD. These seven may or may not be hired depending on additional tests and psychological evaluations. I have to emphasize that KPD can be this strict only because it is now offering competitive salaries.

We were impressed with the sincerity and the professionalism with which the officers met the public. They spent a considerable amount of their own time carefully and conscientiously answering questions from the audience and they personally thanked each of us for attending.

KPD is working hard to improve the already high standards established over the last 10 years. I feel that many Kauai citizens still, unfortunately, recall the days of “KPD Blue” and so despise the police.

I hope Kauai will take a new look at our police department; develop a new perspective; and support them. I am absolutely certain that the officers I met want to leave “KPD Blue” behind and want only to do “the right thing.”

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John Zwiebel is a resident of Kalaheo.

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