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Departments : A Closer Look

Honolulu Police Department

June 01, 2000  |  by Kevin Katamoto

If you are fortunate to find yourself on a beautiful beach in Waikiki and, for whatever reason, you need police service, who would you call?  Contrary to popular belief, it would not be Hawaii 5-0.

The Honolulu Police Department (HPD) is the primary law enforcement agency for the entire island of Oahu. The HPD is a large metropolitan agency with 1,719 sworn personnel and 474 civilian employees. The department's jurisdiction is the city and county of Honolulu, which includes the entire island of Oahu: an area of 596 square miles. The estimated resident population is 872,000.

The Honolulu Police Department has been actively involved in community policing since the early 1900s. Each employee has received substantial training in COP theories and practical applications. Each of the eight police districts on Oahu has developed a community policing team to network with private citizens and government agencies to work on community concerns and problems.

Community Area of Responsibility Plan

Chief of Police Lee D. Donohue has continued the department's focus on improving the quality of life in Oahu's communities by adopting progressive and innovative approaches to community policing. The dilemma facing the HPD was the same problem facing many law enforcement agencies. Although the agency adopted a community policing philosophy, the day-to-day activities facing frontline patrol officers basically remained unchanged.

The HPD had to determine a course of action that would enable the agency to take the next evolutionary step in community policing-the elimination of special teams and specialized positions and the distribution of community policing tasks to each and every patrol officer. The department believes that it may have the answer in the Community Area of Responsibility (C.A.R.) Plan. The C.A.R. Plan was intended in 1998 in District 5, in Kalihi, a low-to middle-income district.

Assistant Chief Stephen Watarai and his staff borrowed the C.A.R. acronym and some of the basic concepts from the Broward County Sheriff's Office in Florida. The C.A.R. Plan was a fundamental change in the way the HPD did business. The long-term well-being of each specific community became the number-one priority.  Permanent watches were formed to ensure continuity. Each and every supervisor and patrol officer was given the responsibility for specific geographic areas.

Along with the responsibility came the authority for the officers to control their activities and resources. Frontline officers were given more say in deciding their day-today activities. Patrol officers maintained their responses to calls for service but were encouraged to work on solutions for problems in their specific communities. Assistant Chief Watarai gave the C.A.R. Plan high priority and pushed for further implementation.

The results were phenomenal. Police officers began working with other government agencies to solve community problems. They partnered with the Department of Parks and Recreation to clean up parks and playgrounds. The officers also developed close relationships with school administrators and teachers to curb school violence and truancy.

Officers were allowed to dictate the priorities of their teams, and a bottom-up form of information system was introduced. Instead of the usual parliamentary orders coming from the top, teams of officers were presented with community problems, and they proposed and implemented their own solutions. Their progress was reported upwards, through the chain of command, for proper management and control.

The C.A.R. Plan involves applying resources in an effective and efficient manner. The vast majority of projects are done during the police officer's downtime or when calls for service lessen. Instead of waiting for crime to occur, officers use the time and their initiative to find innovative ways to prevent crime.

Using office space donated by the community, community police officers were set up at shopping centers, school, and commercial buildings to create high police visibility and public accessibility while officers wrote field reports. Foot patrols were introduced in the community to provide the opportunity for the officers to get acquainted with the people in the area.

An unpredicted result was job expansion for frontline officers, who have now had the opportunity to become involved in different activities and were given the chance to work directly with community members under positive circumstances and not just as the result of a crime. Self-esteem and pride developed as the frontline officers began to see the results of their efforts and appreciation from community members pour in. The HPD is now expanding the C.A.R. Plan into other geographical areas on Oahu.

The Future

At the end of 1998, highlighting Chief Donohue's first year at the helm of the HPD, was an 11 percent drop in crime on Oahu. It was the island's lowest overall crime rate in 10 years. The 1999 statistics promise to indicate an even further reduction in crime islandwide. Although Chief Donohue admits that there are probably many contributing factors for the decrease, he believes that women and men of the HPD ca be proud of their outstanding community policing efforts.

Under the leadership of Chief Donohue, Deputy Chief Michael Carvalho and Deputy Chief Robert Au, the HPD has adopted 'HPD 2003,' a strategic plan that will guide the department's operations into the new era. The dynamic plans rely heavily upon the input fro members of the community.  The HPD's C.A.R. Plan is only one example of the cooperation and innovative thinking that will plant the seeds for a better quality of life in paradise.

Lt. Kevin Katamoto a 15-year law enforcement veteran is a patrol watch commander and police academy instructor.  He has a master's degree in organizational management.

Tags: Tourist Destinations, Honolulu PD, Community Policing, Agency Profiles


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