HPD officers say enforcing 30-year old policy endangers their lives

Published: Apr. 3, 2012 at 9:34 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 4, 2012 at 6:44 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Some police officers said the Honolulu Police Department is putting them in danger by enforcing a decades-old ban on supplemental blue flashing lights in take-home police cars.

Police sources told Hawaii News Now that HPD ordered each division commander to assure that the vehicle of each officer under their command is inspected by this Monday to confirm they're not using supplemental blue lights in their dash boards or visors.

For thirty years, HPD has banned officers who have subsidized, take-home cars from using blue flashing lights not issued by the department.

But hundreds of officers have spent their own money -- up to $400 or more -- to install extra blue flashing lights above the dashboards in the front of their cars or above the backseats anyway.

Officers who refused to be identified or interviewed on camera say it's a safety issue and they want to be as visible as possible when they stop on highways, freeways and other dangerous areas.

They point to the recent deaths of two officers within the last six months on the H-1 freeway as one reason why they want extra flashing lights.

But HPD recently issued a memo to all its officers, reminding them of the policy and warning them that any officer with supplemental blue lights would face discipline as of April 1.

The policy began in 1982, in the wake of the unsolved murder of Lisa Au, a 19-year-old Kailua hairdresser.

A man walking his dog found her body on Tantalus about ten days after her car was discovered along the highway near the old Kailua drive-in theater.

At the time, witnesses said they thought they saw a police car with blue flashing grill lights behind Au's car in Kailua the night she disappeared, which fueled speculation a police officer or someone impersonating a cop could have been responsible for her death.

That's why HPD banned blue flashing lights not issued by the department. But officers are still able to install certain types of red- and white-colored lights in their vehicles.

There are about 13-hundred subsidized vehicles used by police officers on Oahu, according to a department spokeswoman.  Police sources estimated more than 400 officers spent their own money to install supplemental blue flashing lights in their take-home cars.

Some officers said enforcing this policy after many years of leniency amounts to putting officers' lives in danger.

Tenari Maafala, head of the statewide police union SHOPO, did not return Hawaii News Now's calls for comment Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.