Pubdate: Wed, 05 Mar 2003
Source: West Hawaii Today (HI)
Copyright: 2003 West Hawaii Today
Author: Tiffany Edwards
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Note: To read more about the "ice epidemic" in Hawaii, go to .


HILO - State Rep. Robert Herkes has proposed a bill calling for retired
police officers to form a crystal methamphetamine task force but many in the
law enforcement community aren't signing off on it, including the Big
Island's Police Department.

Herkes' proposal has been combined with other crystal methamphetamine -
related bills, including prevention and rehabilitation initiatives to form
the omnibus House Bill 297, or "Drug Busters" bill. The bill was expected to
have its final reading on the House floor late Tuesday.

Herkes was confident Monday afternoon the bill will be handed over to the
Senate, saying every member of the House majority had signed the bill and
there were very few questions about it when the bill was taken up during

The bill calls for retired police officers to be hired on a contractual
basis to form a "drug strike force" under the supervision of the Department
of Public Safety. Money would come from the revolving criminal forfeiture
fund the Office of Attorney General oversees.

Also, a percentage of cigarette tax stamp revenues would be earmarked for
crystal methamphetamine treatment, and tobacco settlement money would be
appropriated for prevention, according to the bill.

The bill also calls for the lieutenant governor to be renamed the state's
"drug czar." He would lead a board - comprised of the Attorney General, the
directors of Health, Human Services, Public Safety, and the chairmen of the
Board of Education and University of Hawaii Board of Regents - that would
oversee all drug - related programs in the state and their funding.

While Herkes said the bill brings "all the elements together," including
rehabilitation, education, enforcement and funding, some in the law
enforcement community have suggested it would create another layer of

Deputy Attorney General Kurt Spohn, Hawaii County Deputy Police Chief Harry
Kubojiri and Honolulu Police Capt. Kevin Lima said they support the bill's
intent to fight crystal methamphetamine, but not hiring retired police

"As far as we're concerned, there's enough people. We don't need any more
agencies. We just need more coordination," said Lima, who testified against
the bill when it was presented Feb. 5 to the House Judiciary Committee.

Spohn called it "redundant" to create a statewide task force under the
Department of Public Safety when it already has a narcotics enforcement

Plus, he noted the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program
coordinates the state's police task forces. Hawaii is among 30 areas across
the country with such a severe drug trafficking problem it was dubbed a

Bringing the different law enforcement agencies together "has been a
monumental task," said Director Larry Burnett, who has been "building the
infrastructure" of the program since May.

"What you'll wind up with if it's not coordinated is a small task force
running around doing enforcement and operational activities that in essence
could be counterproductive to the overall strategy that the rest of the law
enforcement community is putting into place," Burnett said.

"A simple buy and bust could drive an organization underground that the rest
of the law enforcement community had an informant into," he said, adding the
lack of coordination also may put officers at risk.

Lima said he has been in the Honolulu Narcotics/Vice Division for three
years and drug investigations aren't as simple as people realize.

"Established drug distributors are pretty smart. We would be hiring retired
police officers: older guys. You would think drug dealers would know who's
coming. I don't know how this thing got so messed up," said Lima, referring
to the omnibus bill.

He said Herkes is "very anxious" to solve the crystal methamphetamine
problem, but "a new agency is not going to make it go away."

Kubojiri suggested the money that would be used to create a new task force
go toward "the current task force initiatives" across the state.

Those task forces currently are federally funded. Hawaii County receives
$230,900 annually - $126,700 for East Hawaii and $104,200 for West Hawaii -
from HIDTA and $86,000 per year in Byrne Memorial Grant funds.

Among other efforts, Mayor Harry Kim's latest budget proposal includes a
task force, with three officers stationed on each side of the island, to
combat the drug problem.
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