Thursday, January 20, 2005

Probe targets
Kauai police

The police chief and commission
chairman question the basis
for the Council investigation

LIHUE » The Kauai County Council is scheduled to go into executive session today to discuss a possible investigation of the Kauai Police Department.

Both Police Chief K.C. Lum and Police Commission Chairman Michael Ching said they had not been told the nature of the investigation.

Lum said yesterday that if rumors are true that at least some Council members want to investigate morale and public confidence in the department, he would welcome any inquiry.

He noted that since he became acting chief last spring and permanent chief in September, drug arrests have soared. He attributed that trend to his reassignment of most of the longtime members of the vice squad and bringing in new investigators.

At the same time, Lum said, the number of citizen tips to police about suspected drug dealers has greatly increased. Lum said he sees that as a public vote of confidence in the department.

Meanwhile, what Lum termed "the abusive use of sick leave" among officers and civilian employees has dropped sharply. And in December, when traditionally many senior officers retire, none chose to leave the department.

Lum said those are signs of improved morale.

The chief said he believes the Council is hearing from some disgruntled officers and civilian employees as part of a longtime practice of going around the police chain of command. They complain to a sympathetic Council before the department can have a chance to address their concerns, he said.

Lum said he hopes to stop that practice by giving police officers and employees confidence that their supervisors will respond to complaints.

Ching, who has been chairman of the Police Commission for less than a month, said he questions whether the Council has the authority to investigate the Police Department unless it has to do with fiscal matters.

He conceded the County Charter gives the Council power to investigate any county agency -- a power it has never used.

But he noted the same County Charter gives the Police Commission control over the Police Department.

"It is the duty of the Police Commission to investigate all complaints against the department," said Ching, who believes the Council is usurping the Police Commission's powers.

County of Kauai

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