Questions arise about DUI checkpoint

POIPU — A Kauai Police Department official said at a commission meeting in June that officers intentionally targeted a reggae festival with a DUI roadblock last month where organizers say their event took a financial loss.

KPD Traffic Safety Lt. Jon Takamura said DUI checkpoint locations are normally randomly selected, but for the Reggae for Life festival on June 4, “it was selected for obvious reasons,” according to the Police Commission meeting minutes for the month of June.

Fewer than 50 people attended the festival at CJM Stables in Koloa, about 200 fewer than what organizers anticipated.

James Miranda, owner of the CJM Stables, said he first questioned advertising and promotion when he saw the poor turnout at the reggae festival.

But organizers blamed KPD and said a DUI checkpoint — set up four hours after the event began — was to blame. The festival began at 3:30 p.m. KPD set up the roadblock on Poipu Road at 7:30 p.m. and stayed until 10:30 p.m.

In June, TGI reported 10 police officers were present at the checkpoint. About 300 cars went through it. No arrests were made.

Typically when there’s a large event, the district commander in the area would have the patrol unit conduct sobriety checks outside of the area or at the entrance to an event, so that it would not impede traffic, Takamura said at the June meeting.

Kauai Police Commissioner Kevin Mince questioned officers on who in the department makes the final determination on selecting sites for DUI checkpoints. During a police commission meeting last month, Mince asked Takamura on whether he or Chief Darryl Perry selects the sites or whether they are approved at the traffic safety level, minutes showed.

Mince declined comment from further TGI inquiries.

Assistant Chief Roy Asher, in the minutes, said he authorized the roadblock that day: “To imply that KPD targeted only the festival goers is untrue because on that same night the roadblock was set-up along the road west of the Grand Hyatt Kauai where Island School was having their after graduation party.”

Based on the calls he received since from the people who went through the roadblock, they felt targeted as well, Asher told the commission.

Peggy Ellenburg, one of the founders of Island School, said about 30 graduating seniors between the ages of 16 and 18 celebrated on June 4 at the Wilcox Gymnasium in Puhi with short speeches, fire knife dances and singing.

Afterwards, their families had a dinner in Koloa. But she hadn’t heard about the checkpoint issue because she had not attended the dinner, she said.

Island School Head Shannon Graves said he was on the bus with the graduating seniors headed to the Grand Hyatt Resort and was stopped at the checkpoint.

“The police stopped us and they were very cordial,” he said. “They let us right through. They talked to us and told us it was standard procedure. It was very quick. I just thought it was a regular checkpoint. They said they wanted to keep the kids safe.”

At the June meeting, Commissioner Mary Hertog asked Perry if he could explain to the commission what a DUI sobriety checkpoint entails.

Hawaii Revised Statute 291E-20, which governs the minimum standards for roadblock procedures, states that police must have a formula on how they are stopping cars, must not have the roadblock for more than three hours and make sure the officers are wearing proper identification.

Perry told the commissioners that the overriding factor in conducting DUI sobriety checkpoints is community safety and that Lt. Takamura is in charge of coordinating all DUI checkpoints, minutes showed.

At the meeting in June, Perry asked that the specifics of how roadblocks are handled not be discussed in open session because he believed it was an internal operational matter that should not be discussed in public, minutes showed.

Mince said that the perception of the public was that KPD targeted only concertgoers and things would have been different if the roadblock was setup in another location like along the road leading to the Grand Hyatt because it would have affected people going to the festival, but also people going to the Grand Hyatt, according to commission minutes.

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