EXCLUSIVE: Officers call in sick in neighborhood struck by property crime

EXCLUSIVE: Officers call in sick in neighborhood struck by property crime
Published: Jun. 27, 2013 at 9:10 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2013 at 6:28 PM HST
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Tenari Maafala
Tenari Maafala

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Department officers upset over one captain's attempts to check up on them led to an outbreak of the "blue flu" Monday night, when about half the officers in East Honolulu's District 7 called in sick, sources said.

Police are using plain clothes officers in the Manoa area to respond to an increase in burglaries and thefts in the neighborhood in recent weeks.

Lynn Barbasa's Manoa home has been broken into twice in two weeks.

"We didn't think they'd be bold enough to come back," Barbasa said.

Sources told Hawaii News Now one HPD captain's response to the spike in break-ins upset his patrol officers who staged the sickout Monday night on the third watch, which runs from 2:30 to 11 p.m. That's when about nine officers or half of those in East Honolulu's District 7, which stretches from Manoa to Makapuu, called in sick on the same night shift, HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said.

Such a high number of officers calling in sick in the same district is "unusual," Yu added.

Sources said HPD Capt. Calvin Tong told the sergeants and lieutenants under him in District 7 that since property crime was rising in the district, they are responsible for making sure that officers are patrolling in their vehicles.

So sources said Tong told sergeants to check the odometers on officers' vehicles to make sure they are racking up daily mileage, and he asked lieutenants to check on the mileage of sergeants.

Tenari Maafala, the head of the police union, said this is the first time he's heard of HPD managers checking officers' odometers.

He calls it a case of a "lack of communication."

"I can understand management's position that they gotta do what they gotta do.  And sometimes officers might deem it as being micro management, so to speak.  But at the same token, as field officers, we have to make sure that we're out there doing what we're supposed to do," Maafala said.

An HPD spokeswoman said checking mileage is one way police managers can make sure officers are doing their job, ensuring higher visibility and better coverage in the field.

HPD said there was still adequate police coverage in East Honolulu during the sickout Monday night, because the department held over officers on overtime from the previous shift, called in off-duty officers and sent some non-patrol officers on the road.

"We don't condone sick outs.  We don't condone 'blue flus,'" Maafala said. "I'm an officer sitting here before you.  That would be the last thought on my mind. I love my job.  I love what I do as a police officer."

Maafala said if officers are upset with superiors, they should continue going up the chain of command with their complaints.

"If you are intimidated, for lack of a better term, let the union be the voice and the face of your arguments and your concerns.  That's why you pay union dues," Maafala said.

In response to Monday's sickout, a spokeswoman said HPD command staff spoke to all watches on Tuesday to discuss any officers' concerns.

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