Shortage of special duty officers hinders success of Nanakuli contraflow project

Nanakuli Contraflow: Special Duty Officers
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

NANAKULI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many are wondering why more special duty police officers aren't helping with the new contraflow experiment in Nanakuli. On Thursday, only two officers kept traffic moving. On Wednesday, there were none. It's a glaring absence for a major project affecting thousands of drivers.

"There's a myriad of reasons why officers aren't there. First and foremost, it's not mandatory. Secondly, the vendor might have posted the request late," said SHOPO President Tenari Maafala.

State Department of Transportation officials said short notice could be the reason. HDOT submitted the request in the past, but the start date had changed. The recent request was submitted on Monday, just two days before the pilot project launched.

"Timing is everything, when they posted it…then of course if it's something that the officer wants to do after they get off an eight to 10 hour, maybe even a 12 hour shift, prolonging their day. Then of course they have to come back the next day," Maafala said.

"The last thing that I want to do on my day off is a contraflow in Nanakuli that's a pilot. Right? So I get it. And I'm not going to force anybody to do anything. We're going to try to incentivize it more. We're talking to HPD what we need to do to get people to sign up," said DOT Highways Deputy Director Ed Sniffen.

The Honolulu Police Department said it's currently trying to fill those Special Duty positions. If those positions can't be filled, on-duty officers will then be used to assist when possible.

Sniffen said they are thankful for that, but it's not ideal.

"If there's a trouble call any place else, there's a prioritization that they must follow. So if there's a robbery someplace else, or God forbid, somebody gets hurt that they need to respond to, they have to leave. So although I counted on that person being available, they cannot be available if there's something else that goes on," Sniffen said.

Sniffen said they are going over options to better incentivize so off-duty officers can step up to the plate. He also said the Sheriff's Division does not have the personnel or resources available for a large scale shift that this assignment requires.

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.