KIHEI - Kihei police officers are - for the first time in nearly two decades - working in a station specifically designed for police work that is equipped with a secure parking lot, holding cells and more than one toilet.
"We're very happy about that," community police officer Emily Kibby said of the toilets Friday.
The newly built Kihei Police Station, which was blessed Thursday, has been functional since last month, but officers were still getting used to the luxuries not found at their old storefront station at the Kihei Town Center.
Sgt. Roger Duchane reviews evidence with police officer David Dougherty on Friday afternoon inside the new Kihei Police Station’s state-of-the-art evidence room.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
Maui community police officer Emily Kibby jokes with officer Brianna Stice inside the women’s locker room Friday afternoon at the new Kihei Police Station. At their previous station, male and female officers had to share one locker room and toilet.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
The old 2,400-square-foot station on South Kihei Road had a small locker room with one shower and one toilet for male and female officers.
"Our locker room was the size of a janitor's closet. We would routinely hit each other with the door," police officer Brianna Stice said, laughing with Kibby and other officers sitting inside a spacious reception desk area. "My favorite things about this place are the multiple toilets, the locker rooms and the showers."
In the new 47,000-square-foot station, the female officers have their own locker room - with seven toilets, six shower stalls and large, double-door lockers. Kibby and Stice are among 11 female officers and public service aides at the station.
Male officers have their own area as well, with several urinals, shower stalls and dozens of lockers.
"You have to remember that the size of the lockers at the old station were for elementary schools," Sgt. Roger Duchane said with a smile.
Duchane, who has been stationed in Kihei for 13 years, recalled South Maui officers working out of a maintenance shed near the whale statue in Kalama Park in the mid-1990s. He said that operations did not improve much when they moved into the storefront area years later.
"If you had 10 people in there it was tight," he said.
Aside from the size, Duchane was most happy about the new station being outside of the flood zone. The new station, on 10.2-acres mauka of Piilani Highway, overlooks the ocean and does not appear to be in any danger of flooding - unlike the old station one day in 2011, Duchane said.
"We were on an island that day and lost two cars," he said. "There were three of us trying to escape, and Brianna had to sit in the back of the car."
"I remember getting splashed, and it was all sewage water outside," Stice said. "I was like, 'Sarge, close the window.' ''
During tsunami and flood warnings, Kibby said, the entire station would have to be evacuated.
"We'd be riding ATVs up to the fire station in the middle of the night," she said of the fire station near Wailea. "We'd also have to fill up all the (police) cars at the 76 (gas station) just in case."
Lt. Sterling Kiyota acknowledged many of the difficulties at the old station, even though he was only there for two years. Upon moving to the new station and sitting inside his new office on the second floor, he called it "amazing."
"One day, my youngest daughter came with me, and she had seen the old station so she was like, 'Wow, daddy your office is huge,' '' Kiyota said, adding that he could probably fit three or four of his old offices into his new one.
The 26-year veteran of the Maui Police Department said that the biggest benefit of the station has been with morale. The new station includes a lunch area, exercise room and its own secure parking lot.
"When everyone is happy, it makes my job a lot easier," he said.
The parking lot was a major addition because officers would routinely have to seek out parking for their police cruisers and personal cars at the town center, said Duchane.
"You can imagine how busy Sansei's gets some nights, so police officers couldn't find parking at their own station," he said.
Duchane also said that officers' cars would get purposefully and accidentally damaged in the lot.
The station's new parking lot includes a sally port that can hold two police vehicles end to end and has two doors - one leading to cells that house juveniles and the other leading to adult cells.
In the past, officers would have to walk prisoners through the town center parking lot.
"We would literally be taking people into custody as people are going to restaurants," Duchane said.
Having multiple holding cells sure beats having to handcuff detainees to folding chairs. That was the case when there was more than one person in custody or another person waiting to be bailed out, Duchane said.
Some of the problems of the old station were taken into consideration through the design, said longtime Kihei patrol district commander Capt. Tivoli Faaumu, who marked his second Maui County police station opening. His first was the Lanai station in 2004.
"We're the sister station for the (Wailuku) one," he said. "We're able to help them out with storage of records, evidence or impounding vehicles in case they get overbooked."
The Kihei station is built for expansion, said Faaumu, and can accommodate at least 65 employees. Currently, the station has about 56 authorized personnel, and its receiving desk and holding cells are not being used.
"I'm hoping to get it going by the end of the year or right after the holiday season," Faaumu said, adding that contractors were still finalizing computer and fingerprinting systems. "The Kihei station, when it's fully staffed, we can alleviate Wailuku (station's burdens)."
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.