HONOLULU sits down with HPD’s new chief, Louis Kealoha, and takes a look at crime and law enforcement in the city today.
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MOST DANGEROUS NEIGHBORHOOD
Increase in overall crime on Oahu from 2008 to 2009.
Number of volunteers who help HPD, including reserve police officers, handicap-parking-enforcement officers, phone/clerical help and interpreters.
Average weight of a patrol officer's gun belt.
I’ve also heard complaints that the police reports given to neighborhood boards are not useful enough. They include raw incident numbers, but don’t track trends or identify specific problem areas. What plans do you have for making better information available?
A: It’s not the reports, per se. It’s going to be those websites, you’ll be able to see patterns and trends. Everyone is going to have access to that. You’ll be able to see where the burglaries are happening. Anyone, at any time, who wants to see what’s going on can click in and see what’s happening.
Do you have a timeline for when this will be implemented?
A: No. Within these five years.
When you started, the police union asked for a three-day work week instead of the current five-day work week. What’s your thinking on the subject? What are the tradeoffs between the two schedules?
A: The No. 1 concern is cost, it’s a primary concern. The other concern is public perception. Hey, these officers are working a three-day work week, in this economy? We don’t want to foster a negative perception. Or compromise public safety. Having an officer on the job for five days in a row improves communication and effectiveness. Having a gap of four days off is just too long. After looking at the issue, we’re not going to go back to a three-day work week.
Stan Aquino of the State of Hawai‘i Organization of Police Officers [labor union] says that officer morale is generally good these days, but that he has concerns about not having enough officers on the street. How do you gauge adequate staffing levels?
A: We have a formula, and we go by the size of the jurisdiction. We look at the calls for service, the types of calls that are being made. That dictates how many officers we put in an area. The plan is to staff the areas adequately, but many times there are unforeseen circumstances. The officer calls in sick, or is injured. So that impacts the staffing in certain areas.
Is the budget a factor in these staffing decisions?
A: Obviously you have to manage overtime. It’s like your budget at home; you only earn so much money, so you have to spend within your means. We’re trying to be efficient, looking at how we can serve the public without compromising officer safety. If we ran into a situation where our budget was reduced, we’d have to move officers from our specialized divisions down to the patrol level. So we’d be able to shift.
Is officer recruitment and retention still an issue? Are San Jose and Seattle still scooping up our officers?
A: Not as much as before. They used to recruit here more often, but we’ve also started to go to the Mainland, going to universities, high schools, getting in touch with students early in their education pipeline, like with the PAL programs. It’s still a challenge, nationally, to recruit officers. But not like before.
Is the department facing a staffing shortage?
A: We’re not fully staffed, but it’s normal attrition, retirements, people leaving for various reasons. We’re not to the point where we need to be concerned.
A pilot program [from November 2009 to March 2010] tested whether putting mugshots of DUI suspects online was an effective deterrent. Are there any plans to revive the online gallery?
A: We’re looking at that right now, and whether it’s going to come back in the form it was in before, or whether there will some modifications, we’re still discussing that. We haven’t looked at the statistics to see how effective the program was, but we definitely got a lot of feedback. It became more of an entertainment value thing.
What would have to happen for that to be reinstated?
A: We want to cover all the legal issues first, to make sure we’re within our legal right to do that. We’re examining a range of programs.
Nationally, there’s been debate about when it’s acceptable for officers to use a Taser to subdue someone. What kind of discussions have you had within the department about the use of potentially dangerous tools such as Tasers?
A: With any weapon or self-defense tactics that we use, we’re constantly evaluating to make sure we’re not abusing the privilege, and not harming the public. Nationally, I know there’s been some discussion on the subject of Tasers, but it hasn’t really become an issue here in Honolulu. We have a use-of-force policy in place. And any time an officer deploys a Taser, or even brings it out and has it visible, the officer is required to submit a report. We take a close look to see if they were justified, and if not, we conduct an investigation.
In five years, how will you measure your success?
A: The last step of this five-year strategic plan is to measure our progress in 2015. Along the way, we’re going to assess, to see if we’re going in the right direction. We want to lower crime rates, but we also want to measure the level of fear in the community. Here’s an example: if we’re responding to speeding violations, and last month we gave 100 citations, and this month we give 200 citations. That’s great, but the question is really, did this reduce the number of accidents? Did it make the streets safer?