City Council leader calls on police chief to bring back COVID-19 enforcement team

Updated: Nov. 23, 2020 at 5:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some are calling on Honolulu’s police chief to bring back its COVID-19 enforcement unit, which was suspended following allegations of overtime abuse.

“I hope that the HPD chief will reconsider the department’s decision,” said Councilman Ron Menor, chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee.

Menor said Police Chief Susan Ballard should only ban the officers under investigation from the team. He wants the rest to continue the work, calling it now more critical than ever.

He said with the holidays here “there are going to be those people who choose to disregard our public health guidelines and thereby jeopardize the health and wellbeing of our communities.”

There’s also concern about the thousands of tourists and returning residents flying into the islands daily. The HPD unit checks on those ordered to quarantine to ensure they’re following the orders.

It also responds to calls from the public regarding large gatherings at beaches, parks and homes.

All that work is now being absorbed by officers on patrol, and onlookers point out that patrol units are already routinely understaffed.

The police department announced the team was suspended last Friday.

That’s the same day a Hawaii News Now investigation revealed 59 officers were shown to have exceeded the HPD’s overtime limit of 24 hours per week.

Of those under scrutiny, 10 were found to have almost double that limit and two, a married couple, logged almost triple the amount over the five week period examined.

“The department needs to take strong disciplinary action against those officers who egregiously abused overtime but it should be handled as a separate, personnel matter,” Menor said.

HPD said the unit will remain suspended until further notice, but was only supposed to last through the end of the year.

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