The owners of Mill Road in Papaikou hired off-duty police officers to restrict access this week, frustrating residents who said they weren’t given a warning from the owners nor a sufficient explanation from police.
The officers, hired as part of a special duty assignment, were placed at the top of the road near Pinky’s from 6 p.m. Wednesday until 11 a.m. Thursday.
About 50 homes are located along the makai side of the road, owned by Jim Waugh and Charlene Prickett.
Several residents told the Tribune-Herald the officers at the makeshift roadblock asked them to provide identification and their signature, in addition to their address, before being allowed to proceed.
Molly Masaoka said the officers were mostly friendly but she found the situation to be offensive.
“It was very disruptive for us,” she said, adding she thought it was a crime scene at first. “They would not give us really any information.”
Maj. Sam Thomas said the owners were restricting access to the road to residents only for 24 hours in order to maintain their claim of ownership on the property.
The couple also owns the Papaikou Mill Beach trail. Currently, Hawaii County is seeking to establish an easement on both for public access to the shoreline.
Waugh and Prickett sought to maintain ownership of both, and typically allow access to the beach for 12 hours a day.
Neither could be reached for comment by press time.
The owners hired the off-duty officers to manage access as a “special duty assignment,” Thomas said. Typically, such assignments are given to officers to manage traffic through construction zones.
The company or individuals hiring the officers pay for their time.
Two officers at a time were stationed at the road, while six were used in total, including four patrol officers, a sergeant and lieutenant, Thomas said.
On Thursday morning, two officers at the roadblock said they were limiting access to residents but didn’t have anymore information to provide.
They pointed to a sign that said access would not be allowed for at least 24 hours.
Thomas said closing a private road might not be a typical assignment for off-duty officers, but he didn’t think it appeared inappropriate.
“I don’t think there were any violations,” he said.
Still, the police department pulled the officers from the location early in order to stay out of a civil matter, Thomas said, referring to the ongoing dispute about shoreline access.
“We have a duty to keep the department out of civil matters,” he said.
Lincoln Ashida, the county’s corporation counsel, said he could not comment on the situation since he didn’t have enough information, but added negotiations for acquiring the road and trail are ongoing.
The county assessed both at $28,500.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.