In response to rapidly growing concerns in Waianae about rumors that arrestees suspected of contracting the coronavirus were being sent to the area’s substation, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard issued a statement this morning saying her department will keep detainees in the same facilities where they were arrested.
Area residents began gathering around the Waianae police substation starting at around midnight in protest after rumors began spreading that detainees were being transported to the facility by the Honolulu Police Department.
Another group of people had apparently gathered on Farrington Highway near the entrance to Waianae to try to form a blockade against motorists driving in, area Councilwoman Kym Pine told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“As part of the department’s overall emergency response plan, we looked at how to house infectious detainees, including whether to transport them to a single police facility,” Ballard said in her statement, which was posted on social media.
“After considering different options, it has been decided to keep the detainees in the same facility where they were booked,” she said. “Until such time that the cellblocks can be retrofitted to accommodate infectious detainees, these individuals will be kept in separate cells apart from the other detainees. Appropriate precautions, including the use of PPE and sanitization of the cellblock and booking area, will be taken. HPD is currently working with the Mayor’s Office to obtain federal funding to retrofit the cellblock at the main station and other locations to be determined.”
Pine, who represents the Waianae Coast, said she spoke to a top HPD official who said the Waianae substation was one of a number of locations that were under consideration as part of a plan to deal with the growing pandemic.
“They’re not just going to go there; they’re going to other places too, it’s just that Waianae is empty and they need to spread everybody around,” Pine said. She and her staff are trying to gather more information, she said.
Pine posted a video on her Facebook page, pleading with her constituents to return home. She also posted separately “Attention Wai’anae residents: We have covid spreading in our community. Please leave the Wai’anae police station and get back to your homes immediately. You are risking your life and your family’s life by protesting at the police station. Let me handle this situation. Thank you.”
Pine said she learned both Hawaii fatalities to date have come from within her West Oahu district, making it more imperative that people avoid social contact as much as possible.
The postings prompted a heated discussion on her page.
“It’s too late!!” posted one Facebook user at about 9:30 a.m. “They have angered us to ‘gather’ with the potential to spread the virus even more. We are not a town that backs down easily, what did they think would happen? They must not have heard our alma mater!! To threaten our families will only bring negative responses! Any family for that matter!! would react the same.
“There are only so much things that can happen when backed into a corner. Like we teach our children bullying in any form is wrong. This Is governmental bullying! Stand toe-to-toe and fight! That is how we are raised to defend our selves against a bully or any aggressor meaning harm. We are a Small town with the Biggest heart, but not to be pushed around… this decision is uncaring, singled out and will not be forgotten.”
Former area Rep. Andria Tupola brought attention to the situation with a Facebook Live video chat late Thursday night, stating that people who are arrested who have tested positive or showing symptoms for COVID-19were slated to be transferred to the Waianae substation.
From what she understood, Tupola said, “They are transferring all positive cases and those symptomatic cases to Waianae station, did you hear me? And this is definitely something you guys need to now about. Because this is not a joke, this is something for real.
“We haven’t had a lot of testing out here in Waianae, we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to take those tests but how many times have we been dumped on? How many times have we been used as a holding place for whatever’s going on the island because supposedly ‘we can handle.’”