MORE MARKED PO­LICE CARS SOUGHT

DECADE SINCE LAST NEW RIGS RE­CEIVED

West Hawaii Today - - Front Page - BY CHELSEA JENSEN cjensen@west­hawai­ito­day.com

KAILUA-KONA — About a decade ago, the Hawaii Po­lice Depart­ment ac­quired its first fleet of marked po­lice ve­hi­cles, cost­ing around $2 mil­lion.

To­day, 29 of those 35 model year 2008 sedans and sport-util­ity ve­hi­cles re­main op­er­a­tional, with each av­er­ag­ing 200,000 miles af­ter be­ing used 24/7 over the past 10 years.

“There are some ve­hi­cles that are just hang­ing on, on the out­side outer dis­tricts, but in Hilo, Puna and Kona, the ve­hi­cles are down to noth­ing, ba­si­cally,” said HPD ad­min­is­tra­tive bureau As­sis­tant Chief Mar­shall Kanehailua.

That’s why the depart­ment is seek­ing to add new rides to its fleet.

“We’re at a critical point where we need to get some of these ve­hi­cles ei­ther re­paired or re­placed,” Kanehailua said.

Most of the ve­hi­cles, 21, are lo­cated in the depart­ment’s larger dis­tricts, Kona, Hilo and Puna, while the outer dis­tricts have one to two each that are typ­i­cally in bet­ter con­di­tion. In the larger dis­tricts, and in some of the medium-sized dis­tricts, the marked ve­hi­cles con­tinue to be as­signed to a pa­trol of­fi­cer on ev­ery watch while other “spare” ve­hi­cles are used to trans­port cus­todies or when needed.

Pur­chas­ing new ve­hi­cles is pre­ferred be­cause re­pair costs are es­ca­lat­ing and con­cerns over safety and li­a­bil­ity should a ve­hi­cle have an is­sue, such as the brakes fail­ing. The po­lice depart­ment does not have its own main­te­nance fa­cil­ity and in­stead contracts re­pair work.

“Li­a­bil­ity is beyond what we are bud­get­ing for these ve­hi­cles should some­thing hap­pen to an of­fi­cer, by­stander or other ve­hi­cle,” Kanehailua said.

That money re­ferred to is $600,000 al­lo­cated in this year’s bud­get to pur­chase 10 marked po­lice cars, a mix of sedans and small SUVs.

“It’s not go­ing to re­place a whole lot, but we’re hop­ing the bids come in and we get the max­i­mum amount of ve­hi­cles,” said Kanehailua.

An in­vi­ta­tion for bids, posted March 19, was to be opened to­day, how­ever,

“We’re at a critical point where we need to get some of these ve­hi­cles ei­ther re­paired or re­placed.”

MAR­SHALL KANEHAILUA HPD AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TIVE BUREAU AS­SIS­TANT CHIEF

that will be de­layed un­til April 30 be­cause the depart­ment plans to change specs af­ter re­ceiv­ing just one bid in­quiry to en­cour­age more com­pet­i­tive sub­mis­sions, he added.

Reached Fri­day af­ter­noon, Mayor Harry Kim said that de­spite the cur­rent tight bud­get, he saw it a pri­or­ity to re­place some of the ag­ing fleet ve­hi­cles not­ing “this should have been done be­fore.” The goal, he said, is to “con­tinue to have the fleet grow.”

The move to pur­chase new ve­hi­cles is the first at­tempt since the county ac­quired the 35 marked ve­hi­cles in 2008-09. The ini­tial pro­cure­ment fol­lowed the county in­sti­tut­ing a Po­lice Fleet Im­ple­men­ta­tion Group to study set­ting up a fleet ve­hi­cle pro­gram to ad­dress ques­tions over the depart­ment’s use of mostly un­marked ve­hi­cles lack­ing uni­form paint, po­lice em­blems and other of­fi­cial mark­ings.

At the time, all of­fi­cers drove their pri­vate ve­hi­cles and were re­im­bursed for fur­nish­ing it for po­lice use.

Crit­ics of the sub­si­dized ve­hi­cle pro­gram said the pri­vately owned cars weren’t as safe as typ­i­cal pa­trol cars equipped with cages, com­put­ers and con­tra­band-proof seats, and were not rec­og­niz­able to vis­i­tors.

Pro­gram sup­port­ers said po­lice cars dis­play­ing a lone blue light fit Hawaii’s re­laxed life­style, boosted of­fi­cer morale, were cheaper to main­tain, pro­vided of­fi­cers with more pay, help­ing re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion, and fa­cil­i­tated a quicker, more wide­spread re­sponse dur­ing a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

The group is­sued its findings in a De­cem­ber 2005 re­port, rec­om­mend­ing a five-year tran­si­tion to all fleet ve­hi­cles, start­ing with 50 spe­cially equipped ve­hi­cles.

The county ul­ti­mately opted to im­ple­ment a hy­brid pro­gram with county-owned fleet cars and sub­si­dized ve­hi­cles. The fleet ve­hi­cles, each cost­ing $55,000 to $67,000, be­gan hit­ting the streets in May 2008.

Bud­getary con­straints since have kept po­lice from ex­pand­ing the fleet, said Kanehailua.

The cur­rent set up re­mains a hy­brid of the op­er­a­ble county-owned fleet and the of­fi­cers’ sub­si­dized ve­hi­cles.

“The depart­ment is of the po­si­tion that our cur­rent sub­si­dized ve­hi­cles along with county-owned marked blue and white ve­hi­cles pro­vide us with the best means to ser­vice the pub­lic given the cur­rent fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion of the county,” Hawaii County Deputy Chief Ken­neth Bu­gado said via email.

“We would be sup­port­ive of a full marked ve­hi­cle fleet pro­gram if it would be fully funded to en­sure that we would have ad­e­quate num­ber of ve­hi­cles op­er­a­tional (i.e., hav­ing spare ve­hi­cles, ad­e­quate re­pair fa­cil­i­ties, etc.) that would pro­vide the same cov­er­age as with the sub­si­dized pro­gram. Ad­di­tion­ally, that at any given time al­lows for the de­ploy­ment of 100 per­cent of our pa­trol force into the field in the event of a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, sim­i­lar to our cur­rent ca­pa­bil­i­ties with the sub­si­dized pro­gram.”

Cur­rently, po­lice have 450 sworn of­fi­cers with six va­can­cies.

Pa­trol of­fi­cers and sergeants, traf­fic en­force­ment unit of­fi­cers, and all uni­formed lieu­tenants re­ceived $600 per month to sub­si­dize the use of their ve­hi­cle while all oth­ers get $562. Each also receives a gal­lon of gas for ev­ery 10 miles driven on of­fi­cial duty.

LAURA RUMINSKI/ WEST HAWAII TO­DAY

Hawaii County Po­lice have a pres­ence at Kon­awaena High School with a marked ve­hi­cle af­ter a so­cial me­dia threat of gun vi­o­lence was re­ported.

PHO­TOS BY LAURA RUMINSKI/ WEST HAWAII TO­DAY

Hawaii County Po­lice con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Alii Drive us­ing sub­si­dized ve­hi­cles.

A sus­pect is taken into cus­tody in a marked ve­hi­cle af­ter a war­rant was served by the Spe­cial En­force­ment Unit.

LAURA RUMINSKI/ WEST HAWAII TO­DAY

A prisoner is trans­ported in a marked po­lice ve­hi­cle af­ter be­ing ar­rested.

LAURA RUMINSKI/ WEST HAWAII TO­DAY

Po­lice in­ves­ti­gate a pedes­trian/ve­hi­cle on Kaim­i­nani Drive with a sub­si­dized ve­hi­cle.

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