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Police survey: High marks, but room for improvement

The results of a Hawaii Police Department community survey conducted in April were released to the public Tuesday, with the majority of respondents finding Hawaii Island is a safe place to live and work.

The statement “the island of Hawaii is a safe place to live” drew 1,034 respondents, with 45.8% in agreement and 12.7%, strongly in agreement.

There were 16.4% disagreeing with the statement and 4.4%, strongly disagreeing. Another 20.7% were neutral.

The response to the statement “the island of Hawaii is a safe place to work” drew an even more positive response, with 50.7% of 1,029 respondents in agreement and 14.4% strongly in agreement. Another 26% had a neutral response, while only 7.3% disagreed and 1.5% strongly disagreed.

More than 57% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that officers they came in contact with during the last year displayed integrity, while 19% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Another 21% remained neutral.

According to Chief Paul Ferreira, the department this year increased its outreach efforts to encourage more people to participate in the survey, with a record number of respondents, 1,040, completing the survey. This represents an 84.5% increase in responses than the previous survey in 2019, in which 564 people participated.

“We definitely appreciated all the positive feedback that we received and the comments on the overall satisfaction with the department’s performance,” said Ferreira, who acknowledged there also are some commenters who raised “valid concerns.”

“There’s comments regarding stronger enforcement of laws, more visible patrols and comments … regarding call takers at our dispatch center, the reception they received, the empathy being shown by some of our officers, our dispatchers — all issues that we need to address and some things that we need to look at,” he said.

“Some of it is not understanding the job the dispatcher has, what they’re required to do, what kind of information they want to get out of an individual. And a lot of times, you get people saying, ‘Your dispatchers are rude. They cut me off.’ That’s because they’re trying to get as much information as they can in a short amount of time to give the officers — and they want to keep people from rambling on.”

Asked if there are any concerns raised that are specific to the coronavirus pandemic, Ferreira replied, “The same concerns are being raised as was raised before.”

“What’s interesting is that we have a big increase in the number of people who responded to the survey than we’ve had in the past,” he added. “A large increase, but overall, people are comfortable calling the police, sharing information and making police reports.

“It’s our response time that comes into question. Do we have enough officers in the field?”

Those concerns have long been voiced, especially in the Puna and Ka‘u districts, the former only slightly smaller than the island of Kauai and the latter almost twice the size of Oahu.

“It’s not just those districts. Even in Hilo, there are sometimes concerns about how long it takes for an officer to respond,” Ferreira said. “And a lot of times, it’s about what types of calls for service are coming in. What calls are there? What priorities are there?

“That’s where I get the comments that say we need more officers.”

Ferreira says the survey is a tool to assist him in:

• identifying problem areas the community is experiencing with the police department;

• determining if he can rectify those issues through specific training of police department personnel;

• making changes to policies and procedures if necessary; and

• clarifying misinformation about laws and/or police practices.

Ferreira said he discusses the survey results with commanders and how they can use the information to respond better to the community.

“The community doesn’t have to wait for a survey,” he added. “You can post comments on our website. You can send emails regarding any interaction you have with the department, the officers or the chiefs — good, bad or indifferent.”

The public can weigh in online at hawaiipolice.com, choosing “contact us” on the red stripe and selecting “feedback” from the drop-down menu.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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