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MPD cited for safety violations after recruit hospitalized

State says hazards were not identified prior to training run

he Maui Police Department has been cited by the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division for safety violations after a police recruit suffered a heat stroke during a training run and was hospitalized earlier this year. The state said that MPD didn’t properly identify potential hazards and ensure recruits understood the hazards prior to the run. The Maui Police Department’s Wailuku Station is shown on Friday afternoon. — The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

The Maui Police Department has been cited for safety violations after a police recruit suffered a heat stroke during training and was hospitalized this year.

The Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division issued the citation, which carried a fine of more than $10,000, last month after doing inspections at MPD, starting a few days after Feb. 4 when police recruits were taken on a 2-mile cross-country run that included planking and formation changes.

Alexa Jacobs, a 27-year-old recruit, didn’t finish the run when she suffered a heat stroke.

Her body temperature was 107 degrees when she was taken inside, according to her family, and her body and organs began to shut down. She was in a coma and on dialysis and was medevaced to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu. She awoke from the coma a few days later.

The citation said MPD didn’t ensure that recruits understood the hazards associated with the initial physical training run, which occurred three days after the recruit training started Feb. 1.

“Failure to identify potential and actual hazards and training employees on those hazards exposed recruits to injury and illness associated with their first cross-country run,” according to the citation, which classified the violation as serious.

MPD spokeswoman Alana Pico said the department was cited under a Hawaii Administrative Rules section requiring that employers “develop and institute a safety and health training program for all employees so they have an understanding of the hazards to which they may be exposed, and the procedures or practices needed to protect them from these hazards.”

“MPD has clarified its safety and health training program to ensure that recruits understand that they may suffer hazards related to heat-related illness, overexertion and vehicular traffic,” she said.

She said the state Occupational Safety and Health Division has agreed to reduce the fine from $10,360 to $7,252.

“MPD is not anticipated to contest this fine,” she said.

According to the division, the case was still open last week and awaiting MPD’s response.

Pico said Jacobs is still employed by MPD and is on workers’ compensation leave.

Police reported last month that the 92nd recruit class, which Jacobs had been part of, was continuing with nine members.

Pico said the safety violation wasn’t related to changes in recruit training implemented by Police Chief John Pelletier, who restructured the program to shorten it to five and a half months. Before he became chief, recruit training already had been shortened from nine to six months.

Pico said the part of the program involved in the violation “is the same as it’s been in the past.”

“It has nothing to do with that because this is the program from previous administrations,” she said.

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

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