LIHUE — Law enforcement isn’t just about patrolling streets and arresting suspects. It’s also about fostering strong relationships between those in uniform and the community.
On the Garden Isle, that’s exactly what Anthony Morita, community relations sergeant with the Kauai Police Department, is doing.
From planning the Kauai Special Olympics to helping residents organize a neighborhood watch group, Morita’s job, is to connect with Kauai residents.
“My primary duties are to meet with members of the community and listen to their concerns, develop, better partnerships and communication and to participate in community events,” he said.
Morita was promoted from detective to community relations sergeant in December. He takes the place of Michael Nii.
“Aside from being a patrol officer for many years, this is the first time I will be directly involved in community outreach,” Morita said.
The 11-year KPD veteran said the new job is something he’s always wanted to do.
“I was praying really hard for this. This is the reason why I became a police officer — to help others,” he said. “Anything to do with children and the community, that’s my focus.”
He also supervises the School Resource Officer Unit and oversees the Kauai Police Activities League.
“There’s a lot for me to learn, and I have some big shoes to fill, but I’m having a great time, and I’m loving this new assignment,” he said.
While the role of the community relations sergeant has been around for decades, this is the first time a KPD officer will focus solely on community relations. Before now, the job was part of the officer’s other duties.
“Community outreach has always been an important aspect of the way we do our business. It’s reflected in our mission statement of policing with the aloha spirit, and in our core values of being pono in the way we interact with each other,” said Darryl Perry, KPD chief. “It’s essential that we maintain our connection with our community because we are here to serve their needs.”
Morita was selected for the position because he understands the importance of having a positive relationship with the community, Perry added.
“He believes wholeheartedly in this symbiotic partnership,” he said.
Having a strong relationship between cop and civilian is important because it establishes trust between the two.
“Without there being proper communication and partnerships with the community, there would be chaos. You see what happens on the Mainland,” Morita said. “KPD would not be successful without having the help and partnerships we develop with the community.”
Other community outreach programs include DARE, Citizen Police Academy, Police Explorers Program, PAU Violence and the annual Alzheimer’s Walk.
For Morita, the most rewarding part about being the community relations sergeant is meeting the people who want to make a difference in their neighborhood.
“I get to spend time traveling throughout the island and meeting with a lot of special and dedicated people who love what they do and are actively involved in their community. I get to listen to their stories, which motivates me to do more,” he said.