Frequently Asked Questions – 2010

From the 2010 Community Satisfaction Survey
(with Chief Kubojiri’s Responses)

Traffic Enforcement Issues

Question: Why do police spend so much time enforcing traffic violations?

Answer: The Hawaiʻi Police Department prides itself in a strong traffic enforcement program as a method for reducing the number of traffic accidents and to assist in ridding our community’s roads of drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol, who pose a risk to the public. In 2010, there were 1,454 major traffic crashes compared with 1,538 in 2009. Up to March 31, 2011, there were 333 major traffic crashes compared with 355 during the same time period in 2010.

Question: Why don’t police spend more time enforcing traffic violations—especially speeding and use of cell phones while driving?

Answer: The number of citations issued by our department continues to exceed that of the previous year in the area of speeding. Statistically, it would be premature to compare cell phone usage violations due to the relatively short time the law has been in effect (a little over a year). For the most part, people who illegally use a cell phone tend to hide its use when an officer in uniform is nearby. Therefore, the officer with a blue light or in a blue-and-white vehicle most likely does not see these flagrant violations as often as the general public does. The Hawaiʻi County Code ordinance that applies to this offense is § 24-167.1 Use of Mobile Electronic Devices While Operating a Vehicle.

Question: Why do police spend so much time making money by giving traffic tickets?

Answer: Fines paid as a result of traffic citations go into the state’s General Fund as mandated by law. The Police Department, the county and the Judiciary derive no income from these citations.

Question: Why don’t police enforce drinking and driving laws more?

Answer:  This is a surprising question only because for each of the last four years, our department has recorded a new high in the number of DUI arrests. In addition, we have specifically assigned officers into details known as Crime Reduction Units to make checks in public areas where illicit drinking occurs in an effort to reduce the number of drinking drivers and underage drinkers who get behind the wheel of a car.

Question: Why do police allow raised trucks with big tires on the road and how do those trucks get safety stickers?

Answer:  Bill No. 312, Ordinance No. 96-112, which became effective on September 19, 1996, repealed Chapter 24 (reconstructed, specially constructed and modified vehicles; reconstruction affidavit and permit), from the Hawaiʻi County Code. Our department applies section 286-21 of the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes for vehicles, such as those described, that we deem unsafe. In 2010, we issued 296 citations for unsafe condition of vehicles. Safety stickers are issued by certified safety inspection centers and that program is administered and monitored by the county’s Finance Division. Unfortunately, some violators may be in compliance at the time they get their safety inspections and then make alterations to their vehicles afterward.

Patrolling and Response Issues

Question: Why don’t police patrol in my neighborhood more often?

Answer: Officers patrol in neighborhoods when they are not responding to actual calls for service. A call for service can range from a barking dog to a robbery or another crime of violence. Unfortunately, because of an increase in calls for service, coupled with budgetary constraints, we are not able to patrol in neighborhoods nearly as much as we would prefer. Still, we do expect officers to make random patrols as time permits.

Question: Why does it take police so long to respond to calls for service?

Answer: Officers are assigned to respond to calls based on a priority system used by the Dispatch Operations Section. Predominantly, in-progress crimes of violence or other life endangering calls are the highest priority. Officers do try to respond as soon as possible and recognize that victims become re-victimized with a delayed police response.

Question: Why are so many police officers going to the same calls?

Answer: The assignment of the number of officers can be done by dispatchers, supervisors or—in some instances—the officers themselves. Factors that determine the number of personnel to respond depend upon the type of call. (For example: Is the crime in progress? Does it involve weapons or violence? Does it involve the elderly or the very young? Will traffic need to be directed?)

Question: Why do police favor locals instead of being impartial? Why are police corrupt?

Answer: It is quite frankly a hard matter to address without specific examples or instances that we can research. Our officers are trained to be fair and impartial and the lack of a large number of formal complaints in this area seemingly bodes well for our department. With that being said, I am troubled that these perceptions exist and I invite the public to report any and all instances of perceived corruption. Reports can be made to any district commander, Internal Affairs, or the Hawaiʻi Police Commission. Complaint forms also may be obtained on our Feedback page or from the Hawaiʻi County Police Commission’s website.

Why do police officers have “attitudes” and treat people rudely?

Answer: Our officers are constantly reminded of the need to treat each and every person they encounter with respect. It greatly disappoints us when such is not the case and, honestly, there is no reason for it. It is not condoned. Again, I ask the public’s assistance in reporting these issues to district commanders and/or Internal Affairs whenever it occurs. We are in the process of providing remedial training to all personnel on professionalism in their interactions with members of the public.

Why don’t officers lead by example by obeying traffic laws?

Answer: Our officers are expected to obey all laws and I am disheartened when we fail on that account, as I do expect our people to lead by example not only in following all laws but also in showing respect for others. I will ask that the public report any instances in which officers are observed not obeying any and all laws. Again, reports can be made to any district commander, Internal Affairs, or the Hawaiʻi Police Commission. Complaint forms also may be obtained on our Feedback page or from the Hawaiʻi County Police Commission’s website. Callers will be asked to provide a description of the vehicle, license plate number (if available), date, time and location of the violation.

Why do officers have illegal tint on their windows?

Answer: Police officers’ vehicles are subject to a yearly tint inspection when seeking a safety sticker at an approved safety check station as well as at least two semi-annual inspections conducted by the Police Department. It is highly inconceivable that an officer would go to the trouble three times a year to remove and then replace illegal tint but, should you believe an officer’s vehicle has illegal tint or any other illegality associated with it, you are asked to contact the captain of the district where you observe the violation. The Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes  §291-21.5 Regulation of Motor Vehicle Sun Screening Devices, allows for 35 percent transmission or lighter tint on driver and passenger windows. Rear windows and rear side windows of trucks, vans and SUVs are exempt if those vehicles have two side view mirrors.

General Questions

Question: Why are police officers working at road construction sites instead of going after suspects?

Answer: Police officers working at road construction sites are on their days off and working what is termed “Special Duty.” They are paid by the construction companies and not by the county.

Question: Why don’t police focus more on dangerous crimes?

Answer: Dangerous crimes are indeed our main focus. The perception that we are not focusing on dangerous crimes may be because plainclothes detectives with more specialized training investigate those crimes and, thus, their activities are less visible to the community than are those by officers in uniform.

Question: Why do police waste so much time using helicopters and going after marijuana?

Answer: Our department supported the eradication of illegal marijuana for a total of eight days in Calendar Year 2010. Those eight days were in support of a state agency, as our department did not oversee any marijuana eradication projects in 2010.  It is interesting to note that our department received many phone calls reporting helicopters being used to eradicate marijuana on days when there were no marijuana eradication projects being conducted by any law enforcement agency on the island.

To be clear, the Hawaiʻi Police Department is steadfast in its belief that marijuana often serves as a “gateway” drug in that its illicit use leads to use of “harder” illicit drugs.

In September 2009, a 13-year-old boy was arrested at an East Hawaiʻi public school after he was found in possession of marijuana, which he had purchased from another 13-year-old boy while both students were at school.

In January 2010, a 15-year-old boy was arrested at a West Hawaiʻi public school after being found in possession of 15 marijuana-filled cookies. An 18-year-old female student had given him the cookies in exchange for 6.5 grams of processed marijuana. The intent was to sell the cookies at the school for $5 each.

In April 2010, three men were arrested in connection with several commercial outdoor marijuana growing operations in the North Kona District, resulting in the recovery of 598 marijuana plants and four pounds of dried marijuana. The dried marijuana had an approximate value of $20,000. The three men were charged with various offenses, including first-degree commercial promotion of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, promoting a detrimental drug and promoting a harmful drug.

In July 2010, three adults were arrested after officers executed a search warrant at a residence in South Kohala and subsequently recovered approximately eight ounces of crystal methamphetamine, powdered cocaine, 50 marijuana plants, three ounces of dried marijuana and a “bang stick” — a firearm-like device that discharges a single round of ammunition at a time and is designed for underwater use as shark protection. The arrested individuals were charged with various offenses, including methamphetamine trafficking, promoting a detrimental drug, promoting a dangerous drug, possession of drug paraphernalia and a weapons offense.

Also in July 2010, two adults were arrested after officers executed a search warrant at a residence located in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. Officers recovered 236 marijuana plants that were being grown both indoors and outdoors, approximately six pounds of dried marijuana and five grams of hashish. The two adults were each charged with two counts of commercial promotion of marijuana, promoting a harmful drug, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In August 2010, two adults were arrested after officers served a search warrant at a residence in Naʻalehu. Officers recovered 555 marijuana plants, seven grams of “black tar” heroin, and 15 grams of dried marijuana. Both adults were charged with commercial promotion of marijuana, promoting a dangerous drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In November 2010, an adult was arrested for various narcotics offenses that stemmed from a traffic stop initiated by South Hilo patrol officers. An investigation led to the recovery of nearly 1.5 pounds of dried, processed marijuana from the vehicle. Subsequently, a search warrant was served on the defendant’s 28-acre Volcano property, where officers discovered two separate indoor growing operations and an outdoor greenhouse, leading to the recovery of 151 marijuana plants. Also recovered from inside the home were 15 pounds of dried, processed marijuana, a firearm and approximately one ounce of hashish. The adult was charged with promotion of a detrimental drug, commercial promotion of marijuana, promotion of a harmful drug, possession of drug paraphernalia and two firearms offenses.

Question: Why do police allow people to have roosters at their homes?

Answer: Game fowl are allowed in residential areas on a limited basis. It is a particular problem in residential areas that are zoned as agricultural lands. On agricultural lands, there is no limit to the number of game fowl that may be kept, as that is consistent with agriculturally zoned property. Further, the keeping of roosters in areas not zoned for same is not a criminal matter but, rather, a matter controlled by zoning inspectors.

Question: Why do police arrest suspects and then release them pending further investigation?

Answer: There is no single answer for this as it depends on the individual circumstance of each case. Generally speaking, arrests are based on the standard of probable cause, which means facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that a crime has been or is being committed and that the accused suspect is responsible for that crime. Often, there is sufficient probable cause for an arrest but not enough evidence to charge a person and send them to trial, which requires a higher standard of proof for conviction—proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, often the suspect is released pending further investigation because of two main issues: The first is the need to locate additional evidence sufficient to charge the person. The second is that a person arrested for a crime may be held for no more than 48 hours without being charged with the crime or, by law, must be released from police custody.

Question: What are police doing about littering and illegal dumping?

Answer: The County of Hawaiʻi has begun an island wide litter project, which involves stepped-up enforcement of illegal dumping, uncovered loads, abandoned vehicles and illicit commercial haulers’ use of household transfer stations. This is a partnership between the Police Department, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Department of Environmental Management with additional resources being provided through the Office of the Mayor.

Question: Why don’t police develop a stronger Neighborhood Watch program?

Answer: Our Community Policing Sections throughout the island currently have 99 active Neighborhood Watches. The Community Policing Officers are more than willing to put time and effort into developing new Neighborhood Watch programs and strengthening existing ones. The biggest problem we encounter with respect to these programs is the need to “find” members of the community willing and able to volunteer and commit their time for Neighborhood Watch activities.

I would ask that anyone who is willing to volunteer their time to be part of a Neighborhood Watch unit contact their nearest police station and ask to speak to the district commander, who can ensure they are put into contact with the Neighborhood Watch coordinator in that district.