HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new lawsuit by the union representing state deputy sheriffs wants to put a hold on the state's $35 million-a-year airport private security contract.
The suit by the Hawaii Government Employees Association alleges that the state greatly expanded the duties of its private security guards at the airports, creating safety issues that potentially compromise criminal cases and exposing the state to lawsuits.
"We … have always entrusted law enforcement duties to the state deputy sheriffs and the Honolulu Police Department. We shouldn't be outsourcing this work to a private vendor," said Randy Perreira, the HGEA's executive director.
The private security guards all work for Securitas, which has the $35 million a year contract with the state. In the past, their duties were limited to security for checkpoints, fences and entry-ways.
But the suit says those powers have been broadened to allow private security guards to carry weapons, make arrests and handle medical emergencies.
The suit says that even their uniforms reflect this change. The security guard's outfits used to say "Securitas," but they now carry the label "Airport Police."
State Sen. Will Espero, vice chairman of the Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs Committee, questioned whether private security guards are qualified or legally authorized to have police powers.
"There certainly are conflicts and clashes between our state Sheriffs and Securitas, which has taken on more police duties and responsibilities," he said. "The legislature as a body never actually approved for an airport police department and basically that's what is being created."
The Department of Transportation, which manages the airport, and the state Attorney General's office both declined comment on the lawsuit.