Frequently Asked Questions – 2013

From the 2013 Community Satisfaction Survey
(with responses from the police chief)

A note from Chief Harry S. Kubojiri:

We appreciate the time community members took to participate in our Community Satisfaction Survey in May 2013. We particularly thank participants for their individual comments, as these will serve to strengthen our department by pointing out ways we can better deliver our services and by highlighting issues that we might not have considered.

We are ever mindful that our department’s effectiveness is ultimately determined by the confidence and cooperation of the community we serve.

Below are the most common issues raised by individual comments received in the survey.

 

Patrolling and Response Issues

Question: Why can’t you hire more officers or put more officers on the streets? And why does it take so long for police to respond to a call?

Answer: We are aware of the need to improve our visibility and response time. Unfortunately, the population growth of our island and the increased number of calls for service, coupled with the recent economic struggles faced by our county, have increased the time it takes to keep up with the number of calls received. Officers are assigned to respond to calls based on a priority system used by our Dispatch Center. Under that system, in-progress crimes of violence or other life endangering calls are given the highest priority. That results in a longer wait for victims of crimes with a lower priority, such as property crimes. Fortunately, the county budget that was recently passed includes an increase of 10 new sworn positions (five each for Kaʻū and Puna). We hope that the additional officers will improve police presence and response times in those two districts.

 

Enforcement of Laws

Question: Why don’t you spend more time citing motorists for traffic violations (especially speeding, drunk driving, noisy vehicles, cell phone use)?

Answer: Our department continues to maintain a strong traffic enforcement program aimed primarily at the violations that tend to cause the most traffic collisions, namely, distracted drivers and drinking drivers. Our statistics show that in Fiscal Year 2012–2013, we made 1,421 DUI arrests and issued 2,718 citations for distracted driving and cell phone use.

Question: Why do you spend so much time citing motorists for traffic violations?

Answer: We feel strongly that the enforcement of traffic laws is a necessary component in reducing the number of traffic collisions, which put all motorists and pedestrians at risk.

Question: Why can’t you clean up drugs, alcohol, homelessness and panhandlers, particularly on Aliʻi Drive, in Pāhoa, and in Downtown Hilo?

Answer: Our department does face challenges in this area. To begin with, homelessness and panhandling are not against the law. The county does have an ordinance against “aggressive” panhandling, but the requirements necessary for a violation are such that it is not an easy law to enforce. Furthermore, in order to enforce laws dealing with persons under the influence of alcohol or drugs in public, we have to prove that they are a danger to themselves or others. Even with that element present, the most we can do— without some attendant criminal act on the part of the impaired individual—is request a mental health evaluation of that person.

 

Investigation/Crime

Question: Why don’t police officers do a better job of following up with victims who report crimes?

Answer: Our investigators are tasked with keeping victims apprised of the status of their cases on a continuous basis. Internally, we have reminded our supervisors to ensure that investigators are indeed keeping in contact with victims, as we recognize how important that is to a victim. To assist us in improving follow-up with victims, we recommend that citizens ask the responding officer for the police report number and the name of the investigator assigned to the case.

Question: Why aren’t police solving burglaries and other crimes in our community?

Answer: As a department, we are constantly seeking ways to improve our training and the methods we use both to solve and combat crime. Sometimes victims become discouraged initially because it takes more time than they expect for a case to proceed through the criminal justice system, but they later are relieved to learn that their case was solved after a lengthy investigation.

 

Administration/Leadership/Training

Question: Why don’t police provide better training for police officers and dispatchers?

Answer: Our department recognizes that in order to be as effective as possible, we must ensure our sworn and civilian employees are properly trained. In the past year, we have established a computerized training program, which has allowed our training time to increase from 7,000 “man” hours per year to 35,000 “man” hours during this past fiscal year. In addition to increasing our training hours, this program allows us to target training issues in a more timely fashion as they evolve. Another benefit is that it has lowered costs by allowing officers in outlying districts to receive training by computer rather than by driving to Hilo or Kona for in-person training. All employees are held accountable for their interaction with members of the public.

 

Attitude/Professionalism

Question: Why aren’t your police officers more professional and why don’t they show more aloha?

Answer: This is an area of constant concern for our department. In the past year, we have provided training on this topic to sworn personnel with the rank of captain and above. In addition, in June of this year we began a project to have all our employees (civilian and sworn) undergo Aloha Training. Moreover, all our employees had mandatory training in Ethics and Professionalism during the past year.

Question: Why do police officers show favoritism to locals or people they know? Why can’t they be more impartial and consistent?

Answer: Our department constantly strives to have our personnel treat all people in a fair and impartial manner. Any citizens who believe they have been treated unfairly are encouraged to make a formal complaint with a district commander, the Office of Professional Standards (formerly known as Internal Affairs), or the Hawaiʻi Police Commission. Complaint forms may be obtained on our Feedback page or from the Hawaiʻi County Police Commission’s website.

Question: Why don’t police officers set a better example by obeying traffic laws?

Answer: We are in complete agreement that police officers must obey and respect the very laws that we are charged with enforcing. We encourage the public to use our Feedback page to report any traffic violations by police officers.

Question: Why do we see police officers talking on their cell phones while driving when they would give us a ticket if we did that?

Although the law banning cell phones and other electronic devices while driving specifically exempts emergency responders, (as long as they are using a mobile electronic device while in the performance and scope of their official duties), internally, this practice is highly discouraged. During public testimony prior to the Hawaiʻi County Council’s enactment of the county ordinance that took effect in 2010, I testified against this exception to the proposed law in my capacity as police chief. Furthermore, we have provided training to clarify to our officers that this exemption does not apply to personal calls while on duty or to any use of a mobile electronic device while driving when they are off duty. We recognize that it is crucial for our officers to lead by example. Members of the public who see a police officer who appears to be violating this law may bring it to our attention using our Feedback page.

Question: Why do police officers drive around in “souped-up” cars and with tinted windows?

Answer: Our department regulates the subsidized vehicles used by officers. These vehicles must be able to seat four adults and must also meet certain minimum requirements in terms of engines and wheel base. As for window tinting, our subsidized vehicles are subjected to tint-meter testing at least twice a year to ensure compliance with state law. Additionally, we have revised our policies about what constitutes acceptable modifications to vehicles operated by police officers, as we do understand that public perception plays a role in our department’s overall effectiveness.

Question: Why don’t you weed out corrupt or unethical officers?

Response: We absolutely encourage the public to bring any and all concerns about corrupt, unethical, and/or unprofessional conduct to the officer’s district commander, the Police Commission, the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards, or the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. Again, complaint forms may be obtained on our Feedback page or from the Hawaiʻi County Police Commission’s website. In matters involving corruption, reports may also be made to an appropriate federal law enforcement agency.