The Kauai Police Department
The KPD recently constructed its main station in Lihue. Photo Dale Stockton
KPD tactical-team members conduct training. Photo courtesy Kauai Police Department
A Kauai patrol officer works his lidar unit. Photo Dale Stockton
The department has beefed up its communications capabilities to help it weather any major Pacific storms that visit. Photo Dale Stockton
Kauai is paradise, even for cops.
Photo Dale Stockton
FEATURED IN TRAINING
Few spots on earth can rival the Hawaiian island of Kauai for sheer tropical beauty, and at first, the idea of policing this paradise may seem a little strange. But while Kauai has a base population of only 60,000 residents, approximately one million tourists visit each year, and along with all those people come the typical law enforcement challenges, as well as situations unique to policing an island. The responsibility for maintaining peace on this island of paradise falls to the Kauai Police Department (KPD).
Kauai is the northernmost of the Hawaiian islands and, like the others, is considered a county within the state of Hawaii for governmental purposes. This means the KPD must function like a municipal police department and a county sheriff's department. Some towns on the island have typical law enforcement needs, such as traffic enforcement and calls for service. There are also vast areas of remote, beautiful, virtually inaccessible and potentially dangerous wilderness.
The fact that Kauai is an island means the KPD has no other law enforcement agency it can call upon for immediate help any call for help will have a very extended response time. The agencies that police the various Hawaiian islands have provided mutual aid on a few occasions, but it entails going down to the airport and getting on a commercial flight, a matter of hours at best.
The KPD maintains three stations on the island, one each in the cities of Lihue, Waimea and Princeville. It handles dispatch and administrative functions out of the main station in Lihue, a beautiful new facility that houses a state of the art commercial-level fitness center with weight machines, free weights and cardiovascular equipment as well as large lockers and showers. Officers can book arrestees at any of the stations, and once booked, the arrestees are brought to the main facility, which holds them until arraignment. Once sentenced, prisoners are transported to a state facility; the most serious offenders go to the island of Oahu.
Although the Lihue station is primarily dedicated to police functions, it also houses the county prosecutor and the island's emergency operating center. In 1992, Hurricane Iniki flattened everything on the island, and the citizens remain keenly aware this type of disaster could happen again. As the northernmost of the populated islands, Kauai is most likely to absorb the blunt of any major Pacific storm, and the emergency operations center was designed with this in mind. The facility is equipped for a sustained operation and bristles with various types of communication antennas.
The department is budgeted for up to 156 sworn officers and is currently staffed with 136 officers. There are 48 non-sworn support positions. The patrol division maintains three separate platoons, each with 26 personnel with three supervisors overseeing field activities. Three patrol lieutenants are assigned geographically and assigned an office at each of the three stations on the island. Patrol officers work nine-hour shifts with five days on and three days off. The shifts run 2200 0700 hrs, 0600 1500 hrs and 1400 2300 hrs. The overlap provides for adequate coverage during shift change. Once a month the shifts rotate backwards (graveyard to evenings to days). New hires attend a 22-week academy followed by three months of field training. The department has an accelerated training session for qualified officers who come in from out of state.
Until recently, the KPD issued its officers a .40 caliber S&W 4046, but it's transitioning to the Glock Model 22. Officers may also carry their own pistol provided it's .40 caliber and functions in double-action only. Officers can check-out Remington 870 shotguns as needed, and qualified officers may carry their own pump or semi-automatic shotgun if desired. Officers may also carry their own .223 carbines provided they have completed required training.
The department issues all web gear and uniforms. It issues three sets of uniforms at time of hire, and from that point on, officers pay 25 percent of any uniform replacement costs (the department pays the remaining 75 percent). The KPD also issues BDUs and raingear for inclement weather operations, something not unusual on Kauai. (Some of the wettest spots on earth are located on the island.) The department issues level 3A body armor (required wear for patrol operations), ballistic panels (if desired), Monadnock collapsible batons, a Pelican M9 flashlight, a portable radio with a lapel mike and a new gel-type pepper spray.
Patrol cars are pretty much the basic police package with little in the way of technological enhancements. (Although Kauai has a new computer-aided dispatch center, the agency does not currently use mobile computer terminals.) But while the cars remain simple, they do have one relatively unique aspect they are issued to individual officers. The take-home car program provides a much greater island coverage in the event of a major incident than the department could achieve without the program, and officers can make incidental stops to and from work. Among the Hawaiian islands, this program remains unique to Kauai.
Despite the island's lack of high-speed roadways, the department needs a traffic-enforcement section to keep drivers in line and investigate serious injury accidents. Traffic congestion can prove challenging at times, and some mainlanders seem unable to adjust to the island's slower pace. The traffic unit is staffed with one lieutenant, one sergeant and five officers who work a 4-10 shift. All of the traffic officers have very specialized training. Currently the unit does not use any motorcycles.
The Investigative Services Bureau has responsibility for all investigative tasks, youth services, vice enforcement and criminal intelligence. All of the agency's detectives are sergeants. Most are general investigators, but there are crimes-of-violence detectives and a white-collar specialist. A criminal intelligence unit that works out of the chief's office is made up of four personnel headed by a lieutenant. In the youth section, a lieutenant and three detectives are responsible for crimes by and against juveniles. There is also a sergeant and three officers assigned to the DARE function covering fifth and eighth grades, as well as three school-relations officers for the high schools on the island.
One lieutenant, two detectives and thirteen officers work the vice section that, despite the name, focuses primarily on narcotics enforcement there isn't a large amount of prostitution on the island, partly because of the limited working area and quick recognition factor. Drugs, on the other hand, remain a challenge, with crystal methamphetamine having grown steadily in popularity over the last five years. On an island where virtually anything will grow, marijuana cultivation is kept in check using a green-harvest program in which specially trained officers spot marijuana from the air. (The illicit plants differ very slightly in hue from the lush vegetation of the island.) With contracted helicopters and National Guard assistance, the officers perform spotting missions three or four times a year and rappel down when they locate a grow.
You might think a languid locale like Kauai would not maintain a high level of tactical capability, but you would be sorely mistaken. (Remember, on an island, a police department must be self-reliant.) The department's Special Services Team includes 16 officers who are highly trained and capable of handling fairly major operations, including barricaded and/or armed subjects and high-risk warrants. New team members spend two weeks training with the Honolulu Police Department's team, and the Kauai unit regularly flies over to train with their counterparts in Honolulu. The team wears specialized BDUs, uses Kevlar helmets with ballistic goggles and has high-tech headset microphone rigs. The primary weapon is the M4 Colt selective fire .223. Two certified snipers use Remington 700 .308s and an Accuracy International .308. The team also has Benelli shotguns and MP5s. Most team members have purchased and use a Glock 35. The team works in conjunction with three specially trained hostage crisis negotiators.
Despite the incomparable lifestyle the island offers, recruiting has proven somewhat challenging for the agency, but not for the typical reasons. On an island, many long-term residents are reluctant to participate in law enforcement because most have strong family and community connections. The usual police testing and screening procedures mean mainland applicants have to make multiple trips to the island, and the expense of this process dissuades many. Compounding these challenges is the fact that all county agencies in the islands Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai operate under the same state negotiated contract, meaning the officers receive the same pay and benefits. This tends to keep salaries lower than many West Coast areas, the region that would normally provide lateral officer interest.
However, the attraction of the island itself and the quality of life have a significant draw. In its recruiting brochure, the department makes this statement: "It [Kauai] is a safer place at home and at work, and has a better quality of life. Many people work hard for many years so they can retire on Kauai. Why not work and live on Kauai your entire life?"
Great question. No doubt about it, Kauai is paradise, even for cops.
Kauai Police Department
Officers: 136 (156 authorized)
Civilian support staff: 48
Female officers: 4
Officer (PO7): $3,381 $4,663
Officers can receive additional pay of $160 per month for standards-of-conduct award.
One year, after which an officer is at PO7 level. The PO9 level provides a pay enhancement for specialized positions.
Vacation & Sick Leave
Each earned at 14 hours per month worked. Up to 14 paid holidays a year. Employees are vested after 10 years of service, and full retirement is available after 25 years of service or at age 55, based on 2.5 percent per year and averaged on the last three years of service.
Dale Stockton is the editor of Law Officer.