Patrol police officer shortage easing

Community, crime reduction unit getting staff back

WAILUKU — With more police officers available for patrol duties, officers who were reassigned to work in short-staffed patrol districts are returning to their jobs as community policing and Crime Reduction Unit officers, police officials said Wednesday.

“They have done tremendous jobs even while short-handed,” Deputy Police Chief Dean Rickard said at a Maui Police Commission meeting Wednesday at Hale Maka’i police headquarters in Wailuku. “Now these officers are able to go back to their primary assignments.”

Community policing officers’ duties have included addressing homeless and mental health issues in the community, Rickard said. He said Crime Reduction Unit officers’ work has supplemented narcotics enforcement done by vice officers.

Rickard said more officers are available to work in patrol districts because officers in the most recent police recruit class completed the final phase of field training. In addition, several officers have returned to work from extended leaves, Rickard said.

Some community policing and Crime Reduction Unit officers were reassigned late last year to maintain patrol staffing, which had dropped because of vacant positions as well as employees on leave during the holidays, said Assistant Chief John Jakubczak.

He said two Crime Reduction Unit officers returned to the unit at the beginning of the year and two others will return Feb. 1 to fully staff the unit.

On March 1, community policing officers will return to those duties, Jakubczak said.

As evidence of the work done by Crime Reduction Unit officers, Jakubczak described a search warrant executed last week at a residence on Kealaloa Avenue in Makawao. He said the warrant targeted a man who had been in hiding and evading police capture since he violated his probation in 2009.

In the search, police recovered more than 31 grams of crystal methamphetamine, more than 1 gram of heroin, 10 grams of marijuana and 50 prescription pills, Jakubczak said.

“He admitted he was selling crystal methamphetamine and heroin,” Jakubczak said.

He said the man’s landlord gave police permission to search the property, leading to the recovery of an unregistered AR-15 rifle and shotgun.

“It was a good investigation by our CRU unit just back off patrol and hitting the ground running,” Jakubczak said.

Police reported 42 vacant positions for officers as of Oct. 31. At the end of the year, the number increased to 51, including some retirements, said business administrator Melissa Magonigle.

She said the department had made 19 conditional job offers to applicants for starting police officer positions.

* Lila Fujimmoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.