Although retired Maui County police officers aren't happy about it, Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta said it was decided several years ago - before he was appointed chief - that the state Department of the Attorney General would administer a program to qualify retired police officers to carry concealed firearms.
Police departments in Hawaii also had input in developing the program, he said.
"They've been doing the best (they) can," Yabuta said of the state's efforts to administer the program.
Yabuta said his department has no funding for the program but has paid thousands of dollars for a machine needed to produce a required identification tag for the retired officers to show that they are in good standing with the department. The identification tag is one of the things needed in order for a retired officer to receive a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
In 2004, Congress passed the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act. It allowed qualified law-enforcement officers and qualified retired law-enforcement officers to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of any state or local law but with certain exceptions.
Yabuta said that while he remains "neutral" on the law, "it's our responsibility to obey federal law."
As far as letting retired officers train and take qualification tests on the Maui Police Department's firing range in Ukumehame, Yabuta compared it to the department's weight room in which retired officers cannot come back to work out after they retire.
He added that it also is a liability issue.
Yabuta said it would be difficult for the Maui Police Department to certify the retired officers on its firing range. The department's firearms training officers are trained to test in only one type of weapon, he said. However, under the federal law for retirees, there is no specific firearm designated to be used.
Yabuta said he has concerns about the law allowing concealed firearms for retired officers. He explained that not all of his officers know the retired officers who may legally have a firearm.
And, if a member of the public reports seeing someone with a firearm, police need to investigate and use caution in approaching that armed person, he said.
"That's my concern, the safety of my officers," he said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.