Interim Kauai police chief seeks accountability
LIHUE » Acting Kauai Police Chief Clayton Arinaga has plans to change the atmosphere in his new office, but not the furniture, he said this week. Arinaga, who took the job last month after the retirement of embattled Chief K.C. Lum, and the demotion of Chief Ron Venneman, was an assistant chief the past five years before he agreed to take the top cop slot. He said he is "just a trustee" until a permanent chief is found.
A 30-year veteran who sued the department following clashes with the previous administration, Arinaga said this week that his job comes down to accountability.
"It's a matter of being accountable for our actions and doing internally what should have been done," Arinaga said. As he told the County Council and the Police Commission, "if we don't do what we have to do, hold me ... up to the fire."
His goal, he said, is to make the department the best in the state.
His first order of business, he said, is establish clear rules through standard operating procedures and general orders so all sworn staff know exactly what's expected of them.
Arinaga, a lifelong Kauai resident and Kapaa High School graduate, said he also hopes to clear up communication problems by setting up a clear chain of command, something that has not been in place for at least five years.
After moving Assistant Chief Gordon Isoda to acting deputy chief, replacing Venneman, Lum's second-in-command, Arinaga is left without any assistant chiefs or captains to make up his senior staff.
So Arinaga is working to set up a promotion process that won't lead to union grievances, he said.
Under Lum, promotions were frozen when two lieutenants passed over for captain filed grievances with the union, and those grievances were upheld, he added.
Even with a new promotion process, though, "there's no magic formula, no guarantee" that any process won't involve union opposition, he said.
There's also no chance that everyone will be happy with his reign, Arinaga said.
While morale was cited as the main reason Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste and the police union called for Lum's removal, Arinaga said that reaching every police officer "may be unrealistic," considering the vast age, culture and value differences in the department.
The key, he said, is to "try to do it one layer at a time," with each layer accountable to those above and below.
Arinaga said he's hoping the police commission "will give me a Christmas present" by selecting a new chief, but it's likely not going to happen until next year, he said.
"Whatever time it takes to get a really good selection, I'll be here," he added.
Arinaga agreed to take the top cop spot when he was assured he would not suffer a pay cut. As permanent chief, he would lose thousands of dollars in salary, as well as from paid overtime, if he were made the interim police chief, a salaried position. With two girls in college, he said, it was not something he could do, he added.
It's not an easy job either, he added, as the chief gets all the heat when there are problems.
Arinaga's no stranger to controversy, however. Last year, he filed a lawsuit alleging whistleblower's violations when he was suspended with pay for a month.
While his predecessor Lum said it was to investigate a criminal charge levied against Arinaga, his suit alleges that Lum suspended him for demanding a criminal investigation of three vice officers who said they attended a conference on Maui but did not.
No charges have ever been filed against Arinaga or the three officers.
He and his lawyer "need to review the case file and see where we stand," Arinaga said.
"It was very difficult for me, and more so, the impact on my family," he added.