HAWAII COPS TO GET MONSTER RAISE
As I’m sure most people on Maui have noticed, we live in delicate economic times. The Hawaii Tourism Authority has released regular reports for the last year showing ever greater numbers of visitors coming to Maui and the rest of the state, but for many individuals and small businesses that aren’t tied to the big resorts, times are definitely not easy. The economy is nowhere near as bad as it was four or five years ago, but we’re also not living in boom times.
In other words, it’s the perfect time to give all cops statewide a giant raise. Few other workers will see anything like a 16.8 percent salary hike over the next four years, but then again, they don’t have a union like the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) backing them up.
Seriously, if they don’t already, every union in the nation ought to look to SHOPO for guidance. Those guys, who represent 2,200 cops statewide, get things done. This is the same union, that when confronted with some meddling University of Hawaii journalism students who asked for Honolulu PD’s Internal Affairs records back in the early 1990s and went all the way to state Supreme Court to get them, instead turned up lobbying heat on the Legislature and got a special exemption written into the state open records law preventing disclosure of such things as the names and status of disciplined cops.
And while I know that cops around the state haven’t gotten a raise since July 2011, how many workers around Hawaii have seen salary hikes of any real size? But what’s really amusing about the news of the raises is how public officials–who tend to enjoy being the same side as the police department–are dealing with it. Not the ambivalence in the quote Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa gave to KITV for their story on the raises:
“While we were surprised at the level of this award, we feel that the arbitration process needs to be respected,” Arakawa said. “The arbitrator was given information by all participants and knew full well the circumstances of the counties and the state and we fully support his decision.”
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AND MAUI PD GETS A NEW ARMORED TRUCK, TOO
Speaking of pretty sweet benefits, have you guys seen the giant fortress that will double as the new Kihei Police Station going up over by Monsanto’s South Maui operation? That’s almost as pretty as the Harley Davidson Motor Trike that superstar parking enforcer otherwise known as Maui Police Officer Keith Taguma is now using to roll around Wailuku Town on his parking enforcement rounds.
Ever since we first saw Taguma trade in his little Interceptor golf cart for the bike, we started wondering what new toys might be on their way to the department that considers photographing police officers in public places to be a crime. And last week, we got an answer: the MPD now gets to play with a military-style armored truck.
No joke–this is an actual military-style armored vehicle, made by Pittsfield, Massachusetts-based Lenco, which has built thousands of these things. Known as the BearCat (which is actually an acronym standing for “Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter-Attack Truck”), the truck is already in use by a bunch of big city police departments around the nation like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, Miami, San Francisco and, of course, Honolulu.
The truck’s armor is a half-inch of military specification steel and can stop .50 caliber bullets. It can mount spotlights, sirens, a battering ram, thermal cameras, a turret and can carry about 10 troops (sorry–police officers).
“Having proven itself in the field, the BearCat has repelled multiple attacks from assault weapons, providing SWAT teams unprecedented with its life saving armor,” states the Lenco website. “The BearCat has enabled law enforcement agencies nationwide to perform critical response and rescue operations in a safe, secure and highly mobile armored vehicle.”
Of course, protection of that caliber (ha!) comes at a steep price. The truck cost the county about $280,000 according to The Maui News, which for that price better include leather seats, AC and a Blu-Ray player. While we can wonder how much use this machine will get on our island, county officials are in awe of the big machine.
“The men and women of the Maui Police Department are very appreciative of the Mayor, his staff and the Maui County Council for this assistance with the acquisition of the Bearcat Armored vehicle,” said MPD Chief Gary Yabuta in a July 2 news release. “This vehicle not only provides greater protection and tactical advantage for our officers, it makes Maui County a safer community.”
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OLD WAILUKU POST OFFICE INVESTIGATION IS A GO!
In not really a surprise vote, on July 5 the Maui County Council voted 5-3 (Don Guzman was excused) to authorize a formal investigation into what Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa’s people knew and when they knew it concerning the decision to demolish the old Wailuku Post Office. The council voted to let their own Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee (which is just made up of the councilmembers) handle the matter, rather than kick it over to the new independent County Auditor, which is usually the guy who takes care of disagreements like this.
As we reported in our June 27 cover story “Is The Maui County Council Nuts?” public documents released by the mayor’s office show how administration officials spent the last two years telling various County Council committees that they were going to demolish the building, and it was only in February–during the demolition–that Councilmember Mike White suddenly asked how the administration was paying for it.
As of now, there’s no word on how long the investigation will take, how much it will cost or how much time the Council Members will spend asking what they were doing while the administration briefed them time and again about their plans to demolish the building.