HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A little more than two weeks after vandals broke a priceless window at Iolani Palace, an influential senator wants to change law enforcement jurisdiction there to the state Sheriff's Division.
On February 8, a man and woman were arrested after law enforcement accused them of breaking an etched window the Palace which is the only one-time royal residence on American soil.
The palace's private security guards called the police, who then called state sheriffs deputies and officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources shortly after 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Police and sheriffs deputies arrived within a few minutes, but DLNR officers took 25 minutes to get there, according to a DLNR spokeswoman.
"We need to take better care of the Palace, there's no question about it. And in my opinion, it's in the state's responsibility, so that leaves the sheriffs, as opposed to fish and game wardens," said State Senate Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee.
Hee said DLNR officers don't have the law enforcement training of police and sheriffs deputies and DLNR is chronically understaffed.
Hee wants to shift law enforcement responsibility to the state Sheriffs Division, and has an initial proposal for adding $200,000 to the budget for four new sheriffs deputies to patrol the Palace.
"It's not insurmountable and it may be worth every penny when you consider what the Palace means to Hawaii," Hee said.
But the man who oversees state sheriffs deputies said it may be "cleaner" to give DLNR the extra funds to hire more of its own officers and for DLNR to keep primary law enforcement jurisdiction over the Palace.
Shawn Tsuha, deputy public safety director for law enforcement said talk of new positions and funds is "premature."
"We most definitely have to sit down with DLNR and look what the jurisdictional issues are regarding the Palace and talk with the Palace caretakers to see what their needs are," Tsuha said.
DLNR has just 34 officers on Oahu to enforce state hunting and fishing violations and other laws at all state parks and in wildlife areas , as well as in ocean waters up to three miles off shore.
"We can't have someone at the Palace all the time," said William Aila, director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
He claimed "the present system is working," where the Honolulu Police Department and sheriffs deputies back up DLNR officers who have primary law enforcement responsibility of the Palace.
The executive Director of Iolani Palace, Kippen de Alba Chu, said, ""Iolani Palace deserves better protection than it currently has."
"We need a clear law enforcement lead agency that will be responsible for protecting Iolani Palace," Chu said. "Having patrols on the grounds would provide a clear message to people that the Palace is being protected and that it's not open for vandalism, etc."
Aila said he would like to perform more frequent DLNR patrols at Iolani Palace, but that takes more staff and more funding.
He said training and equipping a DLNR officer with a vehicle costs $60,000. That does not count a base entry-level salary of about $35,000, which does not count fringe benefits.