I love living in a place where the pile-ups involve not cars on the freeway, but pink and gray clouds atop Waialeale, and madly singing birds, not sirens, capture your attention and the air smells not of exhaust, but flowers, if you’re mauka, or salt, if you’re makai.
Those were my thought when Koko and I went walking on this lovely spring morning that's all golden, warm and breezy. I’m not sure what she was thinking, but it likely had something to do with chickens, smells and the likelihood of my neighbor Andy kicking down a dog biscuit, which he did.
Both Andy and farmer Jerry stopped to talk about the article I wrote on Chief Perry for this week’s Kauai People, and then the conversation expanded into a broader discussion of the police force — a topic that Katy Rose and Jimmy Trujillo also broached in their very interesting KKCR program yesterday.
The Chief’s request for tasers and riot (aka “protective”) gear has attracted much of the attention, with folks debating whether such equipment serves to increase or decrease violent behavior among cops, or if it's even needed on little Kauai.
My own feeling is that a cop’s humanity diminishes when the protective armor goes on and the face shield goes down. Such gear is also intimidating as hell to citizens, and tends to change the tenor of a protest or demonstration into something way more radical. When confronted by a face-off with heavy armored cops, citizens might react by doing stuff they otherwise wouldn’t, like throwing bottles or rocks.
As a friend who was listening to the KKCR broadcast with me observed: “You play nuts, you get nuts. You play big city, you get big city.”
Still, I can understand the point that both Jerry and Andy made, which is that Kauai is not the sleepy little place it used to be, and cops might feel more secure if they have protective gear.
And as Chief Perry already acknowledged in budget hearings before the Council, “operational plans are now in place to partner with other agencies to effectively respond” to incidents like last summer’s Superferry protests.
So would we rather it be our own cops in riot gear, or guys brought in from somewhere else, like Honolulu, who might not be inclined to cut us any slack?
I’ve also heard the argument that when cops have tasers, they’re less likely to pull their guns. But as Jonathan Jay noted on the radio, how often do Kauai cops use their guns right now? It’s not a very common occurrence. Would they be more likely to zap someone with a taser?
I don’t think any of us know the answer to that question. It seems like a lot of it comes down to what kind of training they get, and what kind of cops are on the force — two areas where the Chief is trying to make major changes.
It also seems the Council, which holds the purse strings, is inclined to defer to Chief Perry and give him whatever he thinks is needed to pull our very troubled police department together and achieve national accreditation.
In its coverage today of the public hearing on the county budget, The Garden Island included comments from two Councilmen:
Some of the items in the police budget are not a reflection of things stemming from the August protests of Hawaii Superferry at Nawiliwili Harbor, [Jay] Furfaro said.
It is about helping the department under the leadership of new Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry reach its goal of earning national accreditation, he said. This includes specific training, certification and retention requirements.
“The chief is not there to militarize, he’s there to professionalize and bring accountability,” Councilman Tim Bynum said yesterday.
After talking with Chief Perry, I feel that Tim's assessment is true. While I personally don’t think KPD needs riot gear and tasers, it’s just one tiny part of the much bigger, and more sordid, picture at KPD. I’m way more concerned about the stuff that’s playing out behind the scenes, which is all about who really controls the department, and I hope the community doesn’t turn against the Chief over this issue.
That said, I also hope the Chief makes a statement soon about last week's take-down of Kingdom of Atooi leader Dayne Aipoalani. As my neighbor Andy observed, even if Juan Wilson’s account was exaggerated, it does seem like excessive force was used.
And as Andy Parx noted on the radio yesterday, if the cops could have accomplished the same thing simply by calling Dayne on the phone, it raises the question of whether the county really needed to make a $50,000 appropriation to Councilman Mel Rapozo — the former KPD sergeant who left the force following the Monica Alves scandal and now has his own PI biz — to bring in some of the guys with outstanding warrants.
Finally, someone left a very clever comment on yesterday’s post that seems to accurately sum up Kauai’s attitude toward the big boat. Who needs bogus newspaper and blog polls when you’ve got akamai observers like that?
Mahalo for the laugh.