A police officer's job is dangerous and can often require split-second decisions. It's why State Senator Will Espero wants county police departments to implement a mandatory retirement age.
Espero sent an email to Honolulu Police leaders Thursday saying, "77 years old, may be too old to be patrolling."
Espero is referring to HPD Reserve Officer Joe Becera. The 77-year old is also hard of hearing but up until recently, was out patrolling with active police officers.
Hawaii News Now obtained the HPD policy on volunteers which says, "Reserve officers may perform the same duties & accept the same responsibilities as full-time officers." They are allowed to carry a gun and badge, they just don't get paid and are not covered by the union.
Police sources tell me HPD administrators did try to set age limits in the past, but were told it violated federal laws regarding age discrimination. However, the federal government has done it for years, forcing agents to retire at a certain age.
"Whether you're with ATF, DEA, FBI, Secret Service, NCIS, it doesn't really matter, we have a mandatory age of 57," says former federal agent and retired police officer Tommy Aiu, "The reason for that is because it's basically a young man's game. They want agents that can perform, are physically fit."
Reserve officers are required to pass annual physical exams. Becera presumably passed the exams despite his hearing problems because he remained on the force even going out with plain clothes members of the crime reduction unit. He was at a game room on September 5th when Officer Vince Morre attacked two men. Morre pleaded guilty to violating their civil rights. Becera pleaded guilty to trying to cover up the crime and resigned after 37-years of volunteer police work.
"When I saw on the news reports that this officer was 77 years old, I thought, there's a problem here due to his age and the type of work that this individual is doing," says Espero, who is the Vice Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee.
Espero says county governments can mimic the language used by the federal government to enact similar, age restrictions. If they don't, Espero says he will try to do it at the state level.
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