Mayor Caldwell says HPD COVID Enforcement Team might not return

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Mayor Kirk Caldwell says HPD’s COVID Enforcement Team might not be reinstated.

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The department had put it on hold after possible violations of overtime rules. With the investigation ongoing, the mayor says time is running out.

The COVID Enforcement Team was federally funded with CARES Act money, so it’s only good through the end of the year. With just over five weeks left, the mayor says it may be impossible to bring it back. But he says regular enforcement will continue.

“It just means it’s being done by those who work 24/7, not on overtime, but on regular time and they will be out there enforcing,” said Caldwell. “The hotline remains open, they will investigate complaints.”

The COVID Enforcement Team allowed officers to get overtime by enforcing violations of group gatherings, quarantine and mask orders. The police officers’ union, SHOPO, says the overtime policy allowed for a maximum of 24 hours a week per officer.

“Toward the end of the week, there was a lot of open slots where nobody was signing up because of that limit,” said Malcolm Lutu, SHOPO president. “So my understanding is that they were letting officers sign up if there were open slots toward the end of the week.”

Lutu says the department administration allowed officers to go over the limit.

But sources tell us dozens of officers are now being investigated for abusing the privileges. Two officers reported getting 300 hours of overtime each over five weeks. Lutu says HPD should bring back the COVID Enforcement Team, especially in Waikiki with more tourists returning.

“We had thousands of rooms to check or names to check to see if everybody was complying with this order,” he said.
“So at this point that’s not happening?” asked KHON2.
“Yeah,” Lutu said.

He adds that none of the officers in the Waikiki District is being investigated for overtime abuse. And while different districts have their own system of reporting overtime, they still have to be approved.

“Who approves it?” KHON2 asked.
“Usually the district commanders,” said Lutu. “And then, I’m sure because it’s federal grant and federal money, it will be gathered separately from the department overtime.”

HPD says it allotted nearly $14 million for overtime and had spent more than $7 million. Officers and supervisors found to be in violation will be disciplined.

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