comscore TMT law enforcement costs jump to $11M, almost half spent by Hawaii County | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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TMT law enforcement costs jump to $11M, almost half spent by Hawaii County

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Law enforcement arrest kupuna who barricaded Mauna Kea Access Road on July 17, 2019. The state and counties have spent more than $11 million on law enforcement costs in connection with 16 weeks of protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Law enforcement arrest kupuna who barricaded Mauna Kea Access Road on July 17, 2019. The state and counties have spent more than $11 million on law enforcement costs in connection with 16 weeks of protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The state and counties have spent more than $11 million on law enforcement costs in connection with 16 weeks of protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope, according to new figures released today by the Office of the Attorney General and Hawaii County.

That’s up from about $9 million as of Oct. 9. The current figures are certain to rise as agencies provide more up to date figures.

State costs include:

  • $2.2 million for the Hawaii National Guard through Oct. 14
  • $1.2 million for the Public Safety Department, which oversees state sheriffs, through Aug. 31
  • $1.6 million for the Attorney General’s office through Nov. 1
  • $601,000 for the Department of Land and Natural Resources through Sept. 3
  • $275,000 for the Department of Transportation up to August.

Meanwhile, Hawaii County has spent nearly $4.9 million on police overtime, fringe benefits and other costs so far, members of the Hawaii County Council’s Finance Committee were told today.

The new report to the council suggests the county has taken significant steps to limit the costs associated with the protests, with the county racking up less than $500,000 in new expenses during the past month of the continuing protests.

In addition, Honolulu and Maui County police spent about $260,000 combined in overtime, travel and vehicle shipping in the early days of the protest, as previously reported.

Thousands of opponents of the telescope project have gathered around the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Mauna Kea Access Road at times, and the access road has been closed since July 15. On July 17 police arrested 39 people for blocking the road.

In recent weeks the Mauna Kea blockade has evolved into a standoff, with protesters camping on the road while Gov. David Ige and Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim search for a peaceful way to reopen it to allow construction vehicles to reach the summit to begin site work on the TMT.

The bulk of the county’s protest-related costs so far have been for police overtime and fringe benefits, which amounted to more than $4.47 million through mid-October, according to the county Department of Finance.

Hawaii island Police Chief Paul Ferreira has said the county has scaled back considerably on the number of officers it keeps on hand near the protest site at the base of the access road since the peak of the protest activity in mid-July.

But police are still maintaining a higher-than-normal presence on the mountain. Police announced that as of the end of October they have issued 5,915 citations on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway since Aug. 15 as part of a stepped up enforcement effort in the areas around the protests.

Police say they have also arrested 58 people for 104 offenses as part of that effort, but say they do not know how many of the people who were cited or arrested have any connection to the protests.

“The effort will continue for the duration of the ongoing protest situation to promote the safety of motorists and pedestrians alike,” according to a recent statement from police. The highway runs through the middle of the site of the protests.

Ige has pledged to reimburse the county for most of the costs associated with responding to the protests.

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