State DOT says deputy sheriffs no longer needed at Honolulu airport

State DOT says deputy sheriffs no longer needed at Honolulu airport
Published: Jun. 16, 2017 at 4:45 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 16, 2017 at 4:59 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Transportation has notified the Public Safety Department that state deputy sheriffs are no longer needed at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, according to multiple sources.

A letter that DPS got Thursday, and which was obtained by Hawaii News Now, notifies DPS that they are terminating the 2002 agreement between both state agencies in 180 calendar days.

What the letter does not say is which law enforcement agency will take over protecting the millions of passengers and visitors at Hawaii's busiest airport.

"I'm quite surprised to hear this and I question that decision," said state Sen. Will Espero, whose district includes Ewa Beach.

Currently, deputy sheriffs and embattled private security firm Securitas handle safety operations at the airport.

Some 59 deputy sheriffs work at the airport.

Many of them will likely be transferred to other locations, a move that will likely take place in December. Some speculate that a few airport deputy sheriffs with little seniority could wind up losing their jobs.

In recent months, there have been growing concerns about Securitas' armed guards. The state pays the firm $35 million a year for airport security.

Recent airport incidents involving Securitas guards include the fatal shooting of a family dog. The guard at the center of that case had been fired from the Army as a law enforcement officer before being employed by Securitas.

Last year, meanwhile, several Securitas employees pleaded guilty to theft for their role in the airport taxi bribery scheme. The state alleged that several security workers solicited thousands of dollars in bribes from cab drivers at the airport.

And a Hawaii News Now investigation showed multiple former Honolulu police officers, fired from that department, were also getting positions as armed security guards at the airport.

"Unfortunately there's been many cases and incidents that have raised a red flag and one wonders whether Securitas as a private contractor is the right company," said Espero.

In the past, Securitas' responsibilities were limited to security for checkpoint, fences and entryways.

But more recently, critics said, the company's responsibilities were expanded to allow their officers to make arrests, handle medical emergencies and carry weapons. Company uniforms, which identified some workers as "airport police," reflected those expanded powers.

The state Department of Transportation has not responded to requests for comment Friday.

Before 2002, the HPD handled law enforcement duties at the airport but they were replaced after an overtime scandal. Sources tell us that the HPD won't likely return to the airport.

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