Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2002
Source: West Hawaii Today (HI)
Copyright: 2002 West Hawaii Today
Author: Tiffany Edwards
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


HILO - When performing Green Harvest operations on the Big Island, 
agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) abide by the 
rules the county has imposed on its police.

"The guys are mandated to adhere to what the County Council has 
requested, what the police department asks," said DEA Special Agent - 
In - Charge Tom Kelly, in the Honolulu District office. "It's a 
collective effort between all the agencies when they go out on the 

Kona Councilman Curtis Tyler raised the issue last week when the 
County Council reviewed a report from the county Police Department 
regarding one of the more recent marijuana eradication missions.

In that report, the explanation for at least three complaints about 
low - flying helicopters was the helicopters are "owned by the (DEA) 
and no Hawaii Police Department personnel was on board. The telephone 
number to the DEA was provided."

Tyler and other councilmembers, including retired police Captain 
Leningrad Elarionoff, who represents the Kohala District, maintain 
DEA should follow the rules that say they cannot fly below 1,000 feet 
unless probable cause exists.

Tyler at a Finance Committee meeting last Wednesday noted county 
police were not present to answer his inquiry about DEA abiding by 
the county's marijuana eradication rules.

Elarionoff said then and reiterated this week he does not believe the 
Police Department should be held accountable for DEA's actions.

"I would have much more respect for the DEA if they respected the 
rules that were imposed on the police department," Elarionoff said.

"If they're on a separate mission, I feel we have no right to impose 
on them. However, if our Hawaii County police officers are in the 
chopper on the same mission, I think they're obligated to comply," 
the Kohala councilman said. "Ownership of the helicopter does not 
allow for the non - compliance but the mission does."

Lt. Robert Hickcox, of the Police Department's Vice Division in Kona, 
said everybody involved in the marijuana eradication abide by the 
county's rules.

"If they are going to be working on our island, all the pilots abide 
by those guidelines," Hickcox said.

He said those include helicopter pilots with DEA, the Hawaii Air 
National Guard and Department of Land and Natural Resources. 
Representatives from those agencies have joined with police in all 
four counties to form the Domestic Cannabis Eradication Suppression 
Program, which ultimately answers to Kelly.

Hickcox said the Honolulu Police Department's helicopter also is used 
in missions, as are commercial helicopters rented for about $650 per 

He said in a briefing before each eradication mission, the rules are 
reviewed with those participating in the mission.

Hickcox and Kelly said Hawaii County is the only county that has 
imposed eradication rules.

"We get criticized by the public about our operations, then we get 
questioned by other agencies, saying, 'Why this? Why that?' - We just 
say, 'It's what the council wants.'"

"We just do what we're told," Hickcox said.

"We don't have any of these issues anywhere else in Hawaii," said 
Kelly of the rules, and complaints about low - flying helicopters. 
"It's only over there (on the Big Island) that anyone has made issues 
of it."

"That's the only place where people are testifying in front of the 
County Council about problems of marijuana eradication," said Kelly.

"Maybe the people who are complaining have a vested interest," he 
said, before, "It's a combination of legitimate people who want their 
quiet environment and maybe some other people who've got something 
they don't want police looking in their backyards on."

Kelly acknowledged that he has spoken to Mayor Harry Kim who has 
relayed the concerns from people who don't like listening to noisy 
helicopters hovering in their neighborhoods.

He reasoned that having the pilots fly at 1,000 feet "makes it a 
little more difficult for guys to identify the marijuana" and means 
they "might have to hover in the area longer than if they were at a 
lower altitude."

In any event, Kelly said, "We want to cooperate with the community as 
much as we can and still do our job to eradicate marijuana - which is 
an illegal substance."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Josh