HONOLULU(KHON2) — The Honolulu Police Department’s (HPD) special COVID-19 enforcement team is currently on hold due to an investigation into flagrant abuse of overtime. The Honolulu police commissioner said she wants answers.
The COVID-19 enforcement team launched in August and used officers to catch violators who broke rules regarding quarantine, face coverings and gathering in large groups. According to HPD, a review revealed multiple violations of department overtime policies, triggering an investigation and forcing the police chief to shut the team down.
“I think the real question lies in what the police department is going to do going forward,” said Police Commission Chair Shannon Alivado.
Alivado said there are many unanswered questions.
There is no word on how long the suspension will last or how it will impact future enforcement efforts of COVID-related mandates by HPD.
Alivado said HPD Chief Susan Ballard did the right thing by suspending the COVID enforcement team in light of the investigation.
“It’s now up to her department to look further into and investigate why these officers had so much overtime. What was behind approving these over times? Were they done correctly? Was it appropriate? You know, those are the questions that I think the chief internally will have for her supervisors, but also the commission will also have those follow up questions.”
The review uncovered the overtime violations and showed that at least two officers racked up 300 overtime hours in five weeks. Officers who volunteered to work on the COVID enforcement team were paid using federal CARES Act funding.
HPD said officers and supervisors who violated the rules will be disciplined.
So who will be enforcing the pandemic rules now that the special enforcement team is sidelined?
SHOPO President Malcolm Lutu said that responsibility will fall back on HPD patrol officers.
“I just want to assure the public that we are out there working and we will service all the calls that we receive the best that we can. And hopefully that the public understands,” Lutu said.
Lutu said the COVID enforcement team allowed officers to focus on normal police calls. Having to respond to COVID-19 violations like quarantine breakers, large group gatherings and people not wearing masks puts an added burden on officers.
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