HPD officers delayed getting on the road as evidence vehicles clog HQ parking lot
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department’s secure employee level of the parking garage on Alapai Street is overrun with evidence vehicles.
Videos obtained by Hawaii News Now show nearly 80 vehicles with papers that say “evidence” taped to the windows on level P-2 at the main station.
The more recently added cars are double parked and take up one full driving lane.
The older vehicles are covered in dust and take up the parking stalls.
Officers report having to wait until the previous watch leaves to get a spot for their personal vehicles. That can sometimes cause a delay getting on the road to answer calls.
“The police are saying that they need more people on the road but this could cause a bottleneck,” said Jonathan Burge, a former HPD officer turned defense attorney.
The department said in a statement that nearly all of the evidence cars are connected to violent crimes, which include homicides, and are being stored at the request of the Prosecutor’s Office.
Burge said that’s not necessary.
“I’ve never had a car, actual car, used as evidence,” Burge said, adding that pictures and videos of the car along with any GPS records suffice in court.
“I don’t know why you’d need to keep the car, the whole car anyway, you can photograph it, process it.”
Victor Bakke, a former deputy prosecutor turned defense attorney, agreed.
“Make it available,” Bakke said. He said giving defense teams a reasonable time limit to inspect the vehicle and bring their own investigators would work.
Parking problems have always been an issue for HPD officers assigned to the main station in downtown, but it’s worse now.
In a statement, the city Prosecutor’s Office said “evidence, including vehicles, is important to successful prosecutions.”
The statement went on to say, the department is working with HPD to “reduce inventory without compromising the integrity of criminal cases or public safety”.
The legal experts point out evidence from other crimes aren’t seized for a lengthy period of time.
Bakke pointed out a shift in thinking regarding shoplifting cases years ago.
“They used to take the item that was concealed and hold it until the trial,” Bakke said, adding that pictures are now allowed and still considered, preserving the evidence.
HPD said in a statement that they are now doing monthly inventories and periodic inspections.
The department also said that investigators have contacted owners of some of the vehicles, notifying them they have “20 days to contact HPD or have their vehicle subject to tow or removal.”
So far, HPD told Hawaii News Now that only two owners have come forward to claim their vehicles.
“An additional two dozen vehicles have been deemed as abandoned, and arrangements are being made to have the vehicles removed from the structure.”
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