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Kaua‘i DOCARE presence nearly doubles as 41 new officers commissioned

LIHU‘E — The state Department of Land and Natural Resources significantly bolstered its ranks on Monday, as 41 new Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers were deployed for their first assignments.

This academy of recruits is DOCARE’s largest since its training academy began in 2018. All 41 graduates have spent the last eight months training in both general law enforcement lessons and DOCARE-specific, environmentally focused skills, such as wildlife identification and off-road vehicle operations.

“If you combine the skills of a police officer, game warden, park ranger, marine patrol officer, educator, medic and counselor, that’s a DOCARE officer,” said DLNR DOCARE chief Jason Redulla.

“These officers have a broad skill set, and the academy was the vehicle to get them equipped so they can best serve Hawai‘i in protecting its natural and cultural resources.”

DOCARE officers have full state police powers, although their efforts are concentrated on protecting Hawai‘i’s natural and cultural resources. The new recruits will now split their work between state lands and parks, conservation districts and historical sites, and county ordinances, as well as state shores.

“To the visitor mindset, Hawai‘i’s natural resources are elements of paradise — clear ocean waters, sandy beaches, warm sun, tropical fish,” said DOCARE LT. Carlton Helm, who led the academy. “Without the resources, little by little, we start to lose that identity. (These officers) are committed to our communities and to protecting our resources.”

Prior to the academy’s most recent graduation, the DLNR had only 54 officers scattered between Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Island and Maui. With the addition of 41 new officers, Redulla is confident DOCARE’s increased presence and impact will be felt immediately.

“What this class will do is change that tide to where, instead of being reactive, we can be more proactive,” Redulla said. “It’s been difficult living up to the expectations of what the public demands from us, and that’s going to change with this recruit class going into the field.”

On Kaua‘i, new recruits have nearly doubled DOCARE’s staff from seven to 13, as officers Christian Gayagas, Benjamin Kuhaulua IV, Micah Layosa, Hina Makanani, Tai Ofisa and Cameron Shayler join their ranks.

With almost twice as many officers, the DOCARE Kaua‘i branch plans to prioritize law enforcement operations along the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, as well as an increased presence at Polihale State Park.

“The fact that it’s a very well-used recreational area, we do need to get more people out there — especially on the weekends when it’s used by the public the most,” Redulla said of Polihale.

While all 41 new officers graduated from the DOCARE academy, their training is not over yet. Across all four islands, the new recruits now must spend the next three months under the guidance of a veteran officer before they’re able to become independent officers themselves.

“Learning in a classroom is one thing,” Helm said. “Having role players and stopping to provide remedial training for the sake of recruit development is good. But in the real world, there are no time-outs. That’s where the seasoned officers come in — to provide support, safety and proper direction if need be.”


Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or
Source: The Garden Island

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