House representative blocks much needed DOCARE Academy Bill

Viewpoint

For well over a decade I’ve been an advocate for the state Department of Land and Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement. In that time, I’ve seen the constant changing of DLNR directors as well as DOCARE chiefs. When any new leadership takes the reins, there are always high hopes and initiatives they try to implement. Oftentimes, though, rotten employees within the enforcement division hamper any meaningful progress, usually by putting the new chief in a bad spotlight and painting a dirty picture.

Over the years, some legislators have fallen for this tactic. DOCARE has never had the ability to train its own recruits; instead, it has to rely on previously trained applicants that come from local or out-of-state law enforcement, and although they sometimes get lucky with good candidates, in other times they are faced with making grim decisions to hire a bad candidate or leave the position vacant and risk losing the position to legislative cutbacks.

Recently, however, new DOCARE Chief Robert Ferrell has initiated a long-awaited concept of a DOCARE training academy where the division could train its own recruits, who could apply for the positions without any previous experience. This opportunity would allow anyone to apply for the job, which would greatly enhance the pool of applicant choices, and DOCARE would no longer be forced to hire questionable employees.

The DOCARE Academy Bill SB3048 SD2 was making its way through the Legislature this year and passed the Senate unanimously, giving everyone high hopes that positive changes were in DOCARE’s future. However, a single House representative, Ryan Yamane, who is chairperson for the Water and Land Committee, refused to even hear the bill, hence destroying any hope of improving the way the state hires officers.

One has to wonder how this bill could be passed with such vigor from the Senate with no senator voting against it and yet be stopped by a single House representative whose committee’s purpose is to protect and enhance our natural resources. Only real dysfunctional leadership with a severe lack of understanding of what it takes to protect our reefs, our fish, everything mauka to makai, could make such a horrible decision.

For over a decade I’ve been an advocate for DOCARE and in that time I’ve come to find out that the reason DLNR enforcement has never progressed forward positively is because the state House has continuously hampered its development by not providing meaningful funding or legislative improvements such as this academy bill. The Senate has historically always been supportive, but it is indeed the House that is at fault for hindering DOCARE’s improvement all these years.

So, next time you find yourself wondering why DOCARE had to hire an ex-cop who ended up getting arrested for molesting a child on the Big Island, or why some Oahu officers never wrote any citations for the past decade or so, you can thank our state House, especially Rep. Yamane, for blocking much needed improvements.

The Academy Bill SB3048 SD2 could still be brought to life if the Legislature attaches it to the governor’s budget, but that won’t happen without public support.

So, if you are as upset as I am at dysfunctional legislators such as Yamane, please call him and voice your displeasure and ask him to support our DOCARE officers instead of destroying their morale. You can reach him at (808) 586-6150 or email him at repyamane@capitol.hawaii.gov.

“The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness.” When Yamane was sworn in, I think he conveniently forgot that part of our state motto.

* Darrell Tanaka of Haiku is a lifelong fisherman. He has been fighting for conservation for more than 12 years with a strong focus on supporting DLNR enforcement.