Lawmakers not convinced the transportation department needs its own police force

Lawmakers not convinced the transportation department needs its own police force
Published: Sep. 25, 2017 at 7:50 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 26, 2017 at 6:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Department of Transportation's attempt to create its own police force is facing resistance.

"We need the top notch professional law enforcement officers and I don't believe at this time that the DOT plan is in our best interest," says State Senator Will Espero, the Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee.

The agency's plan requires legislative approval.

DOT wants to start a law enforcement division to be called the State Transportation Police Force starting with the 59 deputy sheriffs at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.  The Department of Public Safety notified the deputies months ago that they were giving up command and control of them to the DOT.  

The union representing the deputy sheriffs, HGEA, is also hesitating, "The biggest concerns, simply put, is who is going to be ultimately responsible for the law enforcement function at Honolulu international airport and that's the big public policy we hope legislators will seriously scrutinize." says Randy Perreira, HGEA's Executive Director.

Espero says other lawmakers have also expressed concern, "We're talking about millions of people who go through that airport, visitors and local people alike."

The plan goes beyond the airport.  The 19 Harbor Police officers would also be absorbed by the DOT force, giving them control of the airport and harbors.

The Director of the DOT, Ford Fuchigami, has even more ambitious plans, he wants lawmakers to allow him to use the police force to work state highways too, doing traffic control and even participating in homeless sweeps.

"We had a very difficult time getting sheriffs to come out because again, we don't have additional sheriffs to do this job," Fuchigami says, "We need to pass some bills so that we can go ahead and do that.  I have the authority right now to give police powers. Give police powers to the airports and the harbors but I don't have that for the highways and that's going to be very important."

Lawmakers will take up the issue at the start of the next legislative session in January.

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