Wednesday, August 18, 2010


OUT OF THE FRYING PAN...: State Auditor extraordinaire Marion Higa gets her head into the machinery of government and spits out the details of what’s broken in excruciating detail.

But woe is us when state legislators start coming up with ways to fix it.

A good example of this just might play out next January after yesterday’s joint hearing of the Senate and House public safety committees’ reaction to Higa’s audit of the Sheriffs’ Division of the Department of Public Safety.

At the end of the newspaper report on the hearings was this quote:

In response to a question from Senate Public Safety Chairman Will Espero, (Department of Public Safety Director Clayton) Frank and Deputy Director Jim Propotnick said they would support splitting the sheriffs' law enforcement function from corrections responsibilities.

Espero (D, Ewa-Kapolei-Ewa Beach) said after the meeting that he will introduce legislation to create what in effect would be a stand-alone law enforcement agency combining sheriffs with those with police powers now currently in the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Land and Natural Resources and Department of Transportation.

For years, not just the Sheriffs' Division but the DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Recourse Enforcement along with the DOTs harbor police have been anything but ethical and competent models of law enforcement with each force answerable only to their respective department heads. That has created private police forces without any of the civilian oversight that is required of accredited law enforcement agencies across the nation.

That’s led to abuses that spur an inordinate number of complaints about specific actions of specific officers without any accountability beyond an arbitrary and often capricious decision by the politically appointed department head

Just combining these law enforcement agencies and presumably putting them under the governor’s office- as one television news report suggested was part of Espero’s plan- will only create an even bigger monster with even less accountability than the current setup.

All too often legislators- not just at the state but county level too- take the easy way out by giving their respective administrations more power than is wise and then wind up complaining about the abuses of that power.

Certainly something is broken with all these paramilitary groups. But unless accreditation and a civilian board or commission is part of any reform plan it’s bound to be ripped a new one by a future Higa audit.

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