Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Musings: Cornering the Cops

You have to get up early these days to see the pre-dawn color, which offers the advantage, along with the light show, of encountering very little traffic.

The half-moon was bright and the eastern sky was edged in scarlet when Koko and I went walking on this warm, soft morning. The summits of the interior mountains were obscured, but the slopes of Waialaeale were not, and they served as a sort of reflecting pool for the orange-pinkness of the clouds that floated above them.

Ran into my neighbor Andy, and we chatted on subjects ranging from the height and size of 19th Century Hawaiians to relationships that span decades before I headed home, passing both the garbage truck and the biggest rat I’ve ever seen, flattened in the road, which made me glad I was not walking in the dark in slippers, as I have been known to frequently do.

It was nice, over the long weekend that honors the many American soldiers left dead by our endless warring, to take a major break from both the computer and the process of articulating my thoughts, but of course, others continued on in the never-sleeping cyber world.

In my in-basket, there’s been a small flurry of email about a commentary written by Juan Wilson in Saturday’s Garden Island, and yesterday’s response by police Chief Darryl Perry. I noticed there’s yet another perspective presented on the issue in the paper today by Police Commissioner Tom Iannucci.

In one of the emails, the chief was criticized for saying he hadn’t read Juan’s entire commentary before responding, but to tell you the truth, Juan lost me along the way, too.

While Juan did raise a few good points about the need for “aloha spirit” in the department’s mission statement — which seems to have already been addressed by the Chief, according to Iannucci’s commentary — Juan lost credibility, at least with me, and most likely many others, when he started out by saying the cops should give up their guns and cars and use “sporty electric golf carts,” bicycles and horse patrols.

That was before he morphed into a conspiracy bit about the cops “providing speculators security for unwanted development” and “protecting the pesticide spraying of GMO corporations on the Westside.” Huh?

When you come from an extreme premise like that, it’s easy to be discredited and dismissed, which both the chief and Iannucci did in their responses. And in the process, the legitimate concerns about the further militarization of police that Juan also raised go unexamined.

Then I saw other emails about Jonathan Jay’s plans to do a radio show featuring the Chief and Juan, although apparently not in the studio together. While I’d love to hear the chief on the radio answering questions from the public, why put him in a point-counterpoint position with Juan? What useful purpose could that possibly serve? Juan has already blown his wad with the cops, and he’s not going to get anywhere with them from here. He has lost all effectiveness, if he ever had any, as a spokesman on this issue.

I was talking to a friend on Oahu about this issue this morning, and he said, “That’s something the extreme left and extreme right have in common: distrust of the jackbooted paramilitary cops we have.”

There's tremendous distrust, for good reason, of bad Kauai cops. A lot needs to be done to open up and reform the department, increase its accountability to the public and decrease the trend toward militarization.

The question now is, what’s the best way to achieve those goals? Working with the chief, who at least says he is pushing toward reform, to make sure that public concerns are on his radar? Or digging into polarized us against them positions and advancing fanciful solutions that don’t have a prayer of prevailing?

I believe those of us who want to see substantial change in the department have an opening with this new Chief. Let's plan our strategy carefully to make the most of it. It would be easy right now to back him into a corner. But what good will that do in solving the many serious problems at hand?


Anonymous said...

Joan, thank you for keeping the bar high for everyone.


Andy Parx said...

I’m not going to defend what Juan had to say but Tom Iannucci is equally absurd in denying there are any governance and oversight problems and everything’s hunky dory at KPD.

Denying the harassment of dissidents? Then how about talking about the Apioalina and Mawae incidents instead of just stonewalling. (Parenthetically it doesn’t help to cite Perry’s Royal Society, anti-sovereignty relatives Tom- but I don’t expect you to understand any subtleties).

Denying complicity in any “cover-up” of what really happened in the west side spraying incidents? Then where is the police investigation of the Syrgenta and even the DOH- perhaps it would clear them, perhaps it would collar them. But if there’s no comment and apparently no investigation how can the people think there isn’t something wrong

I’d call that complicity and an abuse of any discretion. Or are all the parent, teachers and community members in Waimea who allege a crime, a cover-up and a lack of police investigation all a bunch of nuts, to be ignored and ridiculed too.

For Tom and Darryl’s information getting officers out of their cars and on bike, horse, electric cart and even foot is a national trend in policing and is a part and parcel of what’s called “community policing”. Try googleing it. Thousands of jurisdictions throughout the country practice it.

I would turn it around on Tom- is there never a circumstance where an officer out of his car and sans gun appropriate? It sounds like your answer is no.- never. That’s just as absurd as saying police should never drive cars or carry guns.

It isn’t about taking away all the cars and guns but it is about, where appropriate, putting policing on the ground in the community and making the officers part of that community.

But obviously Iannucci and Perry, if they have heard of this national trend in policing, see it as a challenge to the “us and them” mentality that is the growing trend of KPD under their tutelage while it runs counter the national trend ...

THAT is what the problem is and why people like Juan see conspiracy everywhere. Whether we agree with him or not we have to understand that he isn’t alone and owe it to ourselves to figure out why there are these conspiracy theories

Juan is judging KPD by it’s words and deed and lately they have been dismal on both accounts. The fact that Iannucci and Perry don’t understand and in fact ridicule Juan’s reaction to their apparently abusive deeds- which they refuse to discuss- and abusive words is more telling to me than Juan’s seeing a conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Juan went a little over the top, but also that Ianucci is part of the problem.

According to Section 11.03 of the County Charter, the. police commission shall..."Receive, consider and investigate charges brought by the public against the conduct of the department or any of its members and submit a written report of its findings to the chief of police within ninety days."

So....if Mr. Ianucci is supposed to be a neutral fact finder regarding complaints of police misconduct - what is he doing acting like a cheerleader for KPD in the newspaper instead. This undermines any pretext that he is impartial when he investigates cops (if he investigates cops).

Joan Conrow said...

I agree about Iannucci's cluelessness, the inappropriateness of his cheerleading and the various shortcomings of the department -- although I'm not really sure it is up to KPD to investigate the Syngenta spraying. I'd think that would be more the kuleana of DOH, Dept of Ag pesticides branch and Fire Dept.

And yes, cops on bikes is nothing new and might work in a place like Hanalei. But the island overall is too spread out for that to be adopted on any significant scale.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is, how can we work for meaningful change, w/o getting stuck in the posturing we're now seeing in the paper? Cuz that ain't gonna get us anywhere.

Anonymous said...

We could do what Andy does and scream for the chief's head. As for Andy's remark about an us-against-them attitude, it comes from the likes of Andy and Juan, not from the police carrying guns.

Pete Antonson said...

Leave it to Andy to dig a bottomless pit right alongside Juan. Lucky for him the digging was less prominent.
Everything Juan writes, for quite a while, will be followed by: "Oh yeah, he's the guy who wanted the police on horseback and unarmed, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha." Talk about your self-marginalizing.
I agree completely with the original post here. I'm pulling for the Chief who has stated some worthy ideals outloud rather than behaving like the General Patton some are portraying him as; perhaps out of habit. After 10 years of police morale being carpet bombed, we need the Chief to succeed with his good intentions

Anonymous said...

Same old Andy.

Denigrating people for "not understanding the subtleties" while heaving grenades at a rabbit.

Juan Wilson's hiostorical lack of accuracy and now this hysterical rant have destroyed his credibility. He's heading for Parxworld where one goes for entertainment.

And I think you are right re investigating spraying. Defn a DOH matter. The local police have no expertise to investigate this sort of thing. If the DOH finds a violation, they have procedures for turning their findings over to the Prosecutor for action. But hey, that's a subtlety.

Anonymous said...

DOH as investigators? Ask the Niumalu residents if they have faith in the DOH's ability to investigate source point pollution. Irregardless, meaningfull and constructive dialog will occur when people can meet face to face in a respectful and civil fashion. Toss that out the window if you're trying to discredit someone or something. Wilson, Perry, and Ianucci were all guilty of that.

Anonymous said...

Key words "meet face to face in a respectful and civil fashion" That is what is too often lacking; unfortunately not facilitated by anonymous online postings.

Mauibrad said...


I thought Juan's original piece back from mid-May when it first came out was mainly about updating the Kauai Police Dept. Mission Statement. Mission Statement updates are a periodic planning event that happens with large organizations including corporations. Updating an organizational mission statement is not something that people should get aggrevated and defensive about. I therefore found the two sarcastic responses to Juan's Op-Ed to be more revealing than anything else on this matter. To an objective observer the kind of lower level sarcastic and ad hominem two official replies in the paper to Juan's piece actually calls into question the judgement and professionalism of the writers involved. Mission statement rewrites need not be a point of contention; in fact, it should be a reasonable place for a calm discussion to take place.

Aloha, Brad

Anonymous said...


Well, that's how Juan framed the issue in his letter this morning. But it's dishonest to cast his original piece as merely a calm discussion of a mission statement rewrite. I have no idea what he intended, but his piece came across at times as insulting to the police, and objectively speaking, it was dismissive of the kinds of dangers the police live with in their jobs day in and day out. Then there was the absurd insinuation that protecting people and cars getting off the Superferry added up to some sort of sinister conspiracy. There was lot's in Juan's piece that couldn't have been better designed to insult the police.

Anonymous said...

But Juan Wilson is a citizen expressing his views, not a public official like the Police Cheif and the Commissioner.

As citizens it is our perogative to engage in these public debates and even to subject officials to scathing critiques.

It is inappropriate however for those officials to respond in a petty and sarcastic manner - that shows a contempt for the community which they are supposed to serve.

Further, if they take a critique of their performance so personally, I wonder if they are mature enough to handle their jobs - and when their job includes carrying a gun, that really worries me.


Anonymous said...

I don't think they took Juan's column personally. I think they were speaking out in defense of police officers. I think that's why they let themselves take the tone they did, because they thought Juan had unfairly unloaded on the rank and file.

And I disagree that their response in any way reveals contempt for the community or that any utterance by a citizen is owed deference or respect. If an official thinks a public comment by a citizen is a stupid comment, there's no reason the official can't treat it like a stupid comment. Of course the official runs the risk of irking the public if the comment he's responding to really does reflect widely held community sentiment, or if the official offends the public's sense of decorum by going overboard. But that doesn't appear to be the case here, at least among the community at large.