HPD suspends COVID-19 enforcement patrols after audit finds major overtime violations
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department confirms it has canceled special COVID-19 enforcement patrols amid allegations of overtime abuse, including against at least 10 officers who were found to have logged from 200 to more than 300 hours of overtime over five weeks.
In an internal memo on Nov. 10, department leaders were notified that 59 officers working on the department’s COVID-19 enforcement team had been flagged in a recent audit for apparent overtime violations. It said officers worked a “significant number” of hours “in excess of explicit instructions.”
Records show that two officers recorded more than 300 hours of overtime from Sept. 27 to Oct. 31. That translates to 65 hours of overtime each week.
Meanwhile, eight officers said they clocked between 200 and 256 hours of overtime during the five-week period. And 49 officers logged between 130 and 198 hours of overtime.
The memo says officers are limited to earning 20 hours of overtime a week.
City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said the hours don’t seem realistic.
“I mean how much can a person work after working their regular shift,” she said.
She added that her utmost concern is the safety of the officers and the public. “People get tired. Physically and mentally,” she said. “And that’s when mistakes can be done.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Honolulu police have been saddled with more work than ever before.
Tasked with enforcing emergency orders, the department created COVID-19 enforcement teams that―funded with federal money―to alleviate some of the extra stress placed on patrol.
It’s overtime work that off duty officers can volunteer for.
Responsibilities include checking in on quarantine violators and citing people for not wearing masks. The teams also respond to 911 complaints about COVID-19 violations.
Kobayashi said, “It would be really disappointing if they weren’t really working these hours.”
In what the overtime audit identified as the most egregious examples of alleged overtime abuse, records show two officers ― who happen to be husband and wife ― logged more than three times the overtime allowed in the course of those five weeks.
Hawaii News Now has confirmed one of the officers is a corporal who ticketed U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams for allegedly violating park rules. Her husband is a sergeant. Both work on the Windward side in District 4 and have been with the department about three decades.
Records show during that five-week period, they recorded 328 hours and 327 hours, respectively. When you do the math, that’s about the equivalent of working a double shift every day for 35 days.
Shannon Alivado, chair of Honolulu’s Police Commission, hadn’t seen the overtime audit before HNN brought it to her attention. She called its findings disappointing and wants more information, including details about what those shifts entailed.
With that said, she gives the department credit for initiating a review of the timesheets.
“I think with this internal audit the department is willing to be held accountable,” she said.
The Honolulu Police Department refused multiple requests to do any kind of interview for this story.
Late Friday, a spokesperson released this statement via email:
“Last week, HPD administrators learned of overtime irregularities and possible violations of department policy and notices. A subsequent review has revealed multiple violations of the department’s overtime policies, and administrative investigations have been opened. Officers and supervisors found to be in violation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including suspension and restriction from working overtime and special duty assignments.
“The use of COVID enforcement teams has been suspended until further notice. This decision was made by the HPD administration independent of any outside sources and will allow us time to review the procedures. COVID-related complaints from the public will be handled by on-duty patrol officers based on availability.”
Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.