EXCLUSIVE: HPD parking shortage concerns officers, police union chief
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
East Honolulu police officers who were warned they could be disciplined for not coming to work on time staged a sickout Monday night, in an incident that highlights the Honolulu Police Department's parking shortage.
Half the patrol officers on third watch, from 2:30 to 11 p.m. covering Manoa to Makapuu called in sick Monday night, in part because of the discipline warning and because a captain asked supervisors to start checking officers' odometers in their vehicles to make sure there were going on patrol.
There's not enough room for all of the police vehicles inside HPD's garage at its Beretania Street headquarters, particularly at shift change around 2:30 p.m. every afternoon.
"There is a huge problem, because it's not just officers. We have civilian employees as well. So parking is very very difficult," said Tenari Maafala, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the union that represents about 1,900 Honolulu police officers.
The police garage is already full of cars of personnel from a half dozen divisions parking there during the day. Then at 2:30 in the afternoon, the problem is compounded when patrol officers from three districts come to work, while some of the officers from the previous shift are returning to headquarters.
"Even within the station itself, you got officers double parking. So officers are being disciplined for that as well, parking out of stall within the structure of which they are allowed to park," Maafala said.
Until a few years ago, the area behind the main police station on the King Street side, was a parking lot where police employees regularly parked. But now it's the Alapai Transit Center, with buses, benches and shelters for bus riders that is no longer available for HPD parking.
"We have hundreds of sworn and civilian employees at the main station and we understand that during certain times parking can be a problem," said HPD Media Liaison Teresa Bell in a written statement.
To help ease the parking crunch, she said police dispatchers park in a new city parking structure right next to HPD headquarters and most other HPD civilian employees pay to park at Neal Blaisdell Center. She could not estimate the number of HPD employees who already park at those off-site facilities because she said the HPD employees with those numbers were in a training session Friday afternoon.
Recently East Honolulu patrol officers were reminded to come to work on time or face discipline by Captain Calvin Tong, who oversees the patrol district that includes Manoa, Hawaii Kai, But Maafala said that's not fair.
"You can't blame the officers. When they're pulling up, there's nowhere to park. And you're not going to just double park a car out on the street, especially, when those lanes are not authorized to be used by police vehicles," Maafala said.
"We are encouraging our officers to take into account the current parking situation and leave ample time when reporting for duty to ensure that they get to work on time," said Bell, the HPD spokeswoman.
"We are currently looking at other alternative parking options for police officers who are unable to find parking during normal business hours at the main station," Bell added.
So far, no officers have been either disciplined or counseled for being late to work because of the parking problems, according to HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu.
HPD said public safety was not jeopardized during the sickout Monday night that affected East Honolulu, from Manoa to Makapuu. The department held over officers from the previous shift, brought in others from their days off and temporarily assigned desk-bound officers to the field that night to assure all beats were staffed, HPD said.