Lee Cataluna: Spending to keep the peace where it’s not needed
Every week now, more or less, there is an update on the amount of money being spent to keep law enforcement at the base of Mauna Kea, where a standoff centered around plans to build the huge Thirty Meter Telescope has stretched on since this summer.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
Every week now, more or less, there is an update on the amount of money being spent to keep law enforcement at the base
of Mauna Kea, where a standoff centered around plans to build the huge Thirty Meter Telescope has stretched on since this summer.
This week, in what sure looked like a public relations move in preparation for the University of Hawaii Board of Regents meeting Wednesday to adopt new access rules for Mauna Kea, another new tally was released. Now, the state wants everyone to know, law enforcement response to Mauna Kea has cost more than $11 million.
The intended reaction, perhaps, is to make it seem as though the anti- TMT forces are wasting taxpayer money. But it’s not the “protectors” who are calling out the troops. It’s the pro-TMT government leaders. Many of the “protectors” think the money spent on law enforcement is a waste
of taxpayer dollars, too. Things have been peaceful and organized on the mauna.
Quantifying the cost of having police, sheriff and DLNR officers is one way to measure the impact of the conflict. What hasn’t been discussed much is qualitative measures of how those expensive man-hours are being used and how
effective the effort has been.
There’s not a lot of law- enforcing going on.
It’s not like firefighters battling Maui wildfires or first responders going house to house after a massive flood on the North Shore
of Kauai — brave, adrenaline-rush, heroic stuff.
Instead, being assigned to Mauna Kea has to be the easiest law enforcement gig in the entire state at the moment. Keeping the peace among peaceful protesters, making overtime, hanging out in the shaded tent of the checkpoint, sometimes wandering down to talk story with the kupuna — that’s like retiring from active duty and working at the mall. The biggest hardship would be perhaps a bit of boredom and some chilly winds.
There are fewer officers on the mauna these days. A month ago, movement leaders say, there were as many as 10 or 12 DLNR officers at the vehicle checkpoint behind the kupuna tent on the road heading to the summit. Now there are more like five or six per shift. A van brings state sheriffs to a post beyond the DLNR checkpoint, while Hawaii County police officers are stationed along Saddle Road on both the Hilo and Kona sides of Puu Huluhulu.
Yes, the police officers have been giving out a bunch of traffic tickets and citations in the area, but even those numbers seem to be spun to malign the kiai as troublemakers. Law enforcement won’t say how many drivers they tagged for traffic violations were people connected to the Protect Mauna Kea movement and how many were just area residents or tourists passing through, perhaps because making that distinction won’t help argue their point.
Why do law enforcement officers have to be there 24/7 when there haven’t been any problems for many 24s and lots of 7s?
If the state and Hawaii County want to stop bleeding money on a law enforcement action that has been unnecessary for months, they can call off the troops and call off TMT.