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Hawaii News

Police DUI program cut almost in half by internal probe

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Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, above, and Traffic Division Maj. Thomas Nitta said yesterday the temporary reassignments of nearly half of the officers in HPD’s DUI roadblock detail to other sections of the department aren’t seriously hurting the roadblock program.

Nearly half of the officers assigned to the Honolulu Police Department’s DUI roadblock detail have been temporarily reassigned to other sections of HPD while an investigation continues into false reporting of overtime in the Traffic Division.

But Police Chief Louis Kealoha and Traffic Division Maj. Thomas Nitta said yesterday the reassignments aren’t seriously hurting HPD’s roadblock program because patrol officers from each of the eight Oahu districts also participate in the program.

DUI roadblocks "have been ongoing and they will continue," Nitta said.

Kealoha said the loss of officers in the DUI detail "is a concern to us." But because patrol officers also conduct DUI checkpoints, "it’s not going to severely impact our ability to find DUIs."

Kealoha confirmed that two sergeants and six line officers in what’s known as the Enforcement Unit of the Traffic Division have been reassigned. They have also been placed under a Restriction of Police Authority order, which means they have been stripped of their badges, guns and police authority but continue to work and get paid.

"We don’t want this case or any other cases that may come up to the administrative process to taint the good work that our officers do islandwide," Kealoha said. "We take serious any complaint that comes to us and in this situation, when it came to us, we investigate it right away."

The Enforcement Unit includes 18 officers in the Selective Enforcement Detail and 41 officers in the Solo Bike Detail, for a total of 59, Nitta said. The Traffic Division is authorized to have 149 sworn positions, 133 of which are filled, Nitta said.

The case being conducted by HPD’s Professional Standards Office, formerly Internal Affairs, involves allegations that officers — in an effort to accrue overtime — reported hours working DUI checkpoints when they did not.

Not all those under investigation are suspected of falsifying government records, but Nitta declined to say what the other allegations are. According to a source, the two sergeants asked officers under their supervision to put them down on arrest reports even though they were not at the scene.

The investigation began after a complaint was filed in January, Kealoha said. He would not say whether the person filing the complaint was an officer, or someone in the division.

"We don’t know if there was a criminal violation," the chief said. "That’s what the investigation is going to tell us. We have to make sure that all our investigations, No. 1, are thorough and follows proper procedures, are compliant with the laws … compliant with the collective bargaining units … and also has to respect, just in general, the rights and privileges of our employees, the persons under investigation."

The Prosecutor’s Office confirmed last week that, as a result of the investigation, about a dozen DUI cases have had to be dismissed. Defense attorneys say the dismissals came because officers who had been transferred were not available to go to court.

A spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office said yesterday there has been no change since last week in the number of cases dismissed.

Nitta declined to provide details on the investigation. However, he said that in general, he supports the department’s use of the Restriction of Police Authority policy, which also bars officers from working overtime or special duty shifts.

"It maintains the integrity of the department and the respect of the community for the department," Nitta said.

The traffic cases were dismissed without prejudice, allowing prosecutors to refile at a later time.


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