Kauai police chief must be local
The ACLU opposes the county's notice to the hiring body
The next Kauai police chief must be a Hawaii resident, the island's police commission was advised last week. But the American Civil Liberties Union says not so fast.
As the police commission starts the process to find a police chief to replace Chief K.C. Lum, who retired in June and was replaced by acting Chief Clayton Arinaga, the county attorney's office has told commissioners they must limit the pool of applicants to Hawaii residents.
Deputy County Attorney Rosa Flores said the commission must follow state law, which requires that all appointed department heads be residents of the state for at least one year.
But the decision flies in the face of a June federal court ruling that found a Hawaii law that limited state and county jobs to state residents was unconstitutional, said Lois Perrin, legal director for the Hawaii branch of the ACLU.
"We are gravely concerned that they are requiring (residency), and we intend to look into it further," Perrin said recently.
Perrin did say that the county attorney's decision is technically true. The federal court decision declared Hawaii Revised Statute 78-1(c), regarding a state and county employee, unconstitutional. But there is a different subsection for department heads; in HRS 78-1 (b), the law requires that a department head be a resident for a year.
"However, that doesn't mean it's constitutional," Perrin said, adding that the state Legislature already had removed residency restrictions on police officers in 2002 because of a shortage of applicants.
"An entire pool of qualified candidates (is) rejected before the process" even begins, she noted. "Whether or not you're competent had nothing to do with the state you live in."
What confuses outgoing Police Commission Chairwoman Carol Furtado is that the commission hired a chief from the mainland, George Freitas, in 1994.
And mainland applicants were accepted when conducting the search for Lum in 2004, Furtado added.
Still, she said, the commission will follow the recommendations and post the job for Hawaii residents only.
"I don't get it," Furtado said. "I think they're gearing themselves up for some major problems down the road."
Flores said, however, that the county could be subject to lawsuits if it does not follow state law as written.
"There is nothing else we could do," Flores said. "The law speaks for itself. We could get sued if we don't follow HRS as it stands."
She added that the county had to receive special clearance to hire Freitas.