Sheriffs say they're woefully under-funded and demand for service - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Sheriffs say they're woefully under-funded and demand for service has grown

Marion Higa Marion Higa
Clayton Frank Clayton Frank
Isaac Segario Isaac Segario

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - From fewer personnel to inadequate equipment, Hawaii's sheriffs say they're being asked to do much more with less. State lawmakers on Tuesday sought answers from the Department of Public Safety after a recent audit uncovered inefficiencies within the Sheriff's Division.

Sheriff's deputies packed into a legislative hearing room, as state auditor Marion Higa laid out the problems plaguing their division. She says their responsibilities -- including providing security at courthouses, serving warrants and other law enforcement duties -- are exceeding their capabilities, and that poor leadership is partly to blame.

"There's a failure to prioritize and allocate resources responsibly, and potentially then the safety of the public and the employees themselves is at risk," Higa said.

She says the inefficiencies have caused a backlog of unserved warrants resulting in about $10 million in lost revenue, and a severe shortage of emergency vehicle operations and firearms training. In 2009, she says only 12 of Hawaii's 300 sheriffs attended training classes.

"There is a severe need to keep those skills current," Higa said. "They're called perishable skills. Without these skills, the department and the state is at risk for liability."

Public safety director Clayton Frank says his Sheriff's Division has been woefully under-funded, while the demand for service has grown. On the horizon -- staffing the just-completed Kapolei courthouse.

"The requirements of our deputy sheriffs has increased, increased to help public safety, but, in the same respect, had tasked our deputy sheriffs much more than we can endure," Frank said.

Among the questions lawmakers had -- why then are 27 funded positions still vacant and do they have a recruitment plan. Officials say funding, again, is an issue, and that the idea of moving sheriffs out of the Department of Public Safety, which also oversees Hawaii prisons, is something they would support.

"Are we resurrecting this again?" Isaac Segario, state Department of Public Safety, said about the idea. "This time I hope they will be more serious about it because two entities are suffering, the sheriffs and corrections, because of the resources."

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