HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Law enforcement is on schedule to begin operations in 2024 according to officials. The change effectively separates the state law enforcement and corrections divisions.

Upgrades to technology, streamlined coordination and uniform training and standards are just a few of the things we can expect from the DLE when it begins operations on January 1, 2024.

Check out more news from around Hawaii

DLE Director Jordan Lowe who said their administrative positions will be filled by mid-summer. After that’s done, they’ll merge the state’s law enforcement entities:

  • Dept. of Public Safety Law Enforcement Division (State Sheriff Division and Narcotics Enforcement Division)
  • Dept. of Transportation Harbors Division
  • Dept. of the Attorney General’s Criminal Investigative Division
  • Dept. of Defense Office of Homeland Security
  • Hawaii State Fusion Center

Low said, combined, it will be a force multiplier.

“We have the harbor police that’s coming over. They’re a small agency they might have 20 officers,” Lowe explained. “When you merge in with the Sheriff’s division, if there’s an emergency or an incident, they’re not 20 anymore, they’re 300.”

According to Lowe, the budget request for DLE tips the scales at $70.3M for 2024 and $76.3M for 2025.

“The large portion of it is the start-up on the technology part, so after we complete that phase and it’s going to be over 5 years, and it’s going to decrease after the second year,” he said.

Public Safety Department Director Tommy Johnson splitting the departments is allowing them to shift their focus.

The Department of Public Safety, which will be called the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, can now concentrate on corrections, rehabilitation and treatment and go through what I call a complete paradigm shift and go from a more punitive model of incarceration to one that more treatment and reentry oriented,” Johnson explained.

He said they are beefing up wrap-around services to address the risks and needs of inmates to help them be better prepared upon release to reduce recidivism.

The DCR budget request for the next year is a whopping $270M.

“But that includes money for CIP, money for salaries, operating expenses things like that. and services,” he said.

Another priority for DCR is building a new facility to replace the aging OCCC.

Johnson said they’re asking the legislature for $25M for design and planning.

Sen. Brandon Elefante, (D) the Public Safety, Intergovernmental, Military affairs Committee Vice Chair said that’s an important piece of the puzzle.

“That is a big issue, the overcrowding of prisons, in our state,” Elefante said. “And so it’s important that we continue to have dialogues for that, and there is a dire need to obviously build a new facility.”

Check out more news from around Hawaii

There are also plans to create a Law Enforcement Training Center. Lowe said it may take them another two years to stand up the facility. Right now they are evaluating their training program and using the Public Safety Department’s training facility.