Hawaii Law Enforcement Agencies
There are 3234 police officers in Hawaii’s criminal justice agencies. These are divided among 13 state police agencies, seven city, and three joint law enforcement organizations.
Although a small state, Hawaii is not the easiest for law enforcement. Comprised of several small islands, the state ranks 4th in terms of coastal area. Thus, law enforcement can be quite the challenge in Hawaii.
Adding to the difficulties, Hawaii is a tourist state. In any situation wherein tourists come to an area from around the world, police face numerous challenges. One is the nature of tourists. For some reason, when people get away from their homes, they tend to act in ways they would not otherwise. Such actions are often illegal.
But law enforcement must walk a careful line between offending the very persons supporting the economy while enforcing the law.
Hawaii Police Chief Makes National News
However, all these challenges aside, Hawaii police made national news in March 2016. The Chief of Police for the state’s most populous city, Honolulu was arrested by Federal Law Enforcement officials. Furthermore, his wife was also arrested.
Chief Louis Kealoha along with his wife Katherine Kealoha were the focus of a year-long investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The allegations include public corruption, civil rights violations, lying to investigators, and abuse of public funds (best known as embezzlement).
At the center of the investigation is a family dispute, which spilled into the courts. After Chief Kealoha was inaugerated in 2009, a lavish celebration was held. The cost of that celebration has been placed at $24,000. The account from which the funds originated belonged jointly to Katherine Kealoha and Florence Puana, her grandmother.
A short time after, $148,000 went missing from the fund and so began a family dispute. As if that were not enough, someone stole Chief Kealoha’s mailbox. In the course of investigating the theft, Federal investigators discovered instances of abuse of power and more. Read more about this bizarre case at Hawaii News Now.
A Brief History of Law Enforcement in Hawaii
Starting in 1847, the territory of Hawaii had a police force of 36 members, two of which were ranking officers. Prior to this, the territory had its own system of law and enforcement which was very different from any experienced by Westerners.
Still, it was not until 1905 that the territory divided the islands into four counties and with it, individual law enforcement agencies.
The counties then were Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii, and Maui. Each county had its own governor. The governor in turn was tasked with appointing a sheriff, who would, as today, hire deputies.
Starting January 22, 1932, this arrangement ended on Oahu. Honolulu, with the passage of Act I, became the first county to adopt city police. This came about after the mishandling of several high-profile cases involving murder and rape. Thus, Governor Lawrence M. Judd appointed a special commission to consider the reasons for the errors. This commission made the recommendations which forever altered law enforcement in Hawaii.
Hawaii Becomes a State
On August 21, 1959, the Territory of Hawaii became the 50th and it seems, the final state to be admitted to the Union. At the time, the small island territory had already been transformed in terms of demographics. In fact, by the time of statehood, persons of Japanese descent greatly outnumbered those of Hawaiian descent.
The small state also enjoyed a vibrant tourist economy just as it does today. Since admission to statehood, the Hawaiian Islands have grown considerably such that today, Hawaii is ranked 40th in terms of population.
Along with this growth has come a greater need for law enforcement. By the end of the 20th Century, Hawaii had developed a fully modern law enforcement system. The crime labs were among the best in the nation and recruiting was up. However, as of 1999, the biggest challenge to many Law Enforcement agencies in the islands, especially the Honolulu PD, was retention.
13 State Law Enforcement Agencies in Hawaii
- Department of Public Safety, University of Hawaii Mānoa
- Hawaii Airports Division Police
- Hawaii Corrections Division
- Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources
- Hawaii Department of Public Safety
- Hawaii Department of the Medical Examiner
- Hawaii Department of Transportation
- Hawaii Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement
- Hawaii Harbors Division Police
- Narcotics Enforcement Division
- State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
- State of Hawaii Department of the Attorney General, Criminal Investigations Division
- State of Hawaii Sheriff’s Office
7 County Agencies/Sheriff’s Departments in Hawaii
- City and County of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Office, Criminal Investigations Unit -Oahu
- Hawai‘i County Police Department – Hawai‘i
- Hawaii Prosecuting Attorney Office, Criminal Investigations Unit – Hawai‘i
- Kaua‘i County Police Department – Kaua‘i, Ni‘ihau
- Kauai Prosecuting Attorney Office, Criminal Investigations Unit – Kaua‘i, Ni‘ihau
- Maui County Police Department – Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘ī, Kaho‘olawe
- Maui Prosecuting Attorney Office, Investigative Services Division – Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘ī
3 Joint City/County Police Departments in Hawaii
- Enforcement – Security Division
- Honolulu Board of Water Supply – Oahu
- Honolulu Police Department – O‘ahu