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New police chief addresses state of the department

New Hawaii Police Department Chief Paul Ferreira used the occasion of a public oath reaffirmation ceremony Monday to deliver a brief State of the Department address.

After he and new Deputy Chief Kenneth Bugado were sworn in to their offices for a second time by Mayor Harry Kim, Ferreira told a standing-room-only assemblage of police brass, officers, county and state dignitaries and the public it was a “humbling experience.”

“I’ve been asked several times what major changes am I going to make in the Police Department, now that I am police chief. My answer is very simple. None. Because if I said there’d be major changes, I’m implying that the Police Department has not performed to satisfaction, which is far from the truth,” Ferreira said. “… I’m not implying that we are perfect, far from it. There is always room for improvement. But it’s not necessarily changes. … We can build on the foundation that was laid down by my predecessor and build on programs that have been successful.”

Among the successes Ferreira noted under retired former chief Harry Kubojiri are the department’s community policing philosophy and its accreditation program — the latter originally spearheaded by Bugado.

Ferreira described the department as “second-to-none in the state” and said it was “solely through the dedication and commitment” of its sworn officers and civilian employees.

Ferreira noted the presence of state Sen. Lorraine Inouye and said, “The buzz phrase in the last legislative session was ‘body-worn cameras.’ And it will probably be a buzz phrase for this upcoming session.”

“This is a program we fully support,” he added. “But the community needs to understand body-worn cameras is just another tool for law enforcement. It’s not a fix-all. It doesn’t solve all the problems. And the community also needs to understand, when you’re building a program such as that, it comes with a great cost financially, for equipment, for maintenance, for storage, for the additional personnel that are needed … to maintain the program and its integrity. … What we will be doing is looking for federal and state aid grants to support the programs. But first, we must develop policies and procedures that will guide us along the way.

“… We’ve all seen how the face of law enforcement is changing throughout the nation. With it comes new challenges and expectations. Police departments are now under greater scrutiny than ever before. And even though in Hawaii we have not experienced the disdain for law enforcement that we see on the news on television, we are not immune to it. We are affected by it. And I believe the solution is not to resist the change, as some have chosen to do … but that law enforcement … needs to adapt … strategies in the best interest of the safety of our officers and the community as a whole.”

Ferreira, a 34-year department veteran, served eight years as deputy chief starting in December 2008, at the beginning of the so-called Great Recession. He said the two major challenges the department faces are adequate staffing to accomplish its mission and costly repairs and maintenance of police facilities.

“It’s no offense to anyone in the past administration or anything like that,” Ferreira said afterward. “Like I said, the first thing that gets cut due to the downturn from 2008 to whenever, is your maintenance and your facilities. You’ve got to make do with whatever you can. Like, here in the Public Safety building, we have some front stairs that need repair and downstairs, we have some leaking issues to address. If you look at the building, it needs to be painted. A lot of it is cosmetic, but some of it is a necessity.

“In some of our outlying districts, the plumbing is having problems. For the most part, it’s not abuse or anything like that. It’s like your house. If you don’t take care of it, eventually, there’s some major repairs that need to be done.”

Ferreira said he will provide department employees “unwavering support and leadership” to allow them to accomplish their mission as professionally as possible.

He told the community the department will stay true to its vision of “providing the highest quality of police service and forming partnerships with the community to achieve public satisfaction, making the Big Island — Hawaii Island — a safe place to live, visit and conduct business.”

The chief said he thinks the department needs “to garner a more positive perception of our employees by the members of our community.”

“And we do this by continuing to be as transparent as possible, as we have been within the confines of the law, in our interactions with the community,” he said. “… I think one part of the solution is that we continue to train our people that we do lead by example, which we are prepared to do.”

Ferreira added he thinks the department needs “to take more advantage of the relationships … with our media partners” to highlight “the steady work that officers have been doing in the community and on their jobs, building on the recognition that is not there.”

“It will demonstrate to the community that our law enforcement officers and the staff are there for more than enforcement, that they are a part of the community, and they do give back,” he said. “That would help relieve some of the negativity that is associated with the law enforcement profession.”

The mayor officially swore in Ferreira and Bugado during a private ceremony Dec. 30, when Kubojiri retired after 37 years of service.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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