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Hee wants law enforcement changes at ‘Iolani Palace

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Recent vandalism at ‘Iolani Palace is prompting a state senator to call for a change in the agency that polices the historic landmark.

State Senate Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee wants the sheriff’s division to have law enforcement authority, instead of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii News Now reported. He proposes adding $200,000 to the budget for four deputies to patrol the palace.

Vandals broke a priceless window about two weeks ago.

"We need to take better care of the palace there’s no question about it," Hee said. "And in my opinion, it’s in the state’s responsibility, so that leaves the sheriffs, as opposed to fish and game wardens."

‘Iolani Palace Executive Director Kippen de Alba Chu agreed the iconic symbol of Hawaiian royalty deserves better protection. The palace hires about 10 private security guards to patrol the grounds, but they do not have law enforcement powers.

DLNR Chairman William Aila said it’s currently working well to have Honolulu police and sheriffs back up DLNR officers.

When the etched window was broken at about 8 a.m. on a Saturday, the private guards called police, who called sheriff deputies and DLNR officers. Police and deputies arrived within a few minutes. But DLNR officers took 25 minutes to arrive, a department spokeswoman said.

DLNR officers don’t have adequate staff or law enforcement training, Hee said.

Aila acknowledged staffing is a challenge: "We can’t have someone at the palace all the time."

Shawn Tsuha, deputy public safety director for law enforcement, said it may be "cleaner" to give DLNR extra money to hire more officers and allow the department to retain law enforcement control over the palace.

"We most definitely have to sit down with DLNR and look at what the jurisdictional issues are regarding the palace and talk with the palace caretakers to see what their needs are," Tsuha said.

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