$900,000 need for salaries for Hawaii's new public safety department

A new law that creates a new public safety agency will cost Hawaii $900,000 from its general revenue fund during fiscal year 2022-2023 for new personnel.

Gov. David Ige praised the legislation that creates the Department of Law Enforcement, the first new agency created since 1989 when state officials created the Department of Public Safety.

The new department includes the Department of Public Safety’s Law Enforcement Division and Internal Affairs Office, the Department of Transportation Harbors Division and the Department of the Attorney General’s Criminal Investigative Division. Also part of the DLE are the Department of Defense Office of Homeland Security and the Hawaii State Fusion Center.

The $900,000 is needed to fund a director, deputy director, administrative services officer, human resources officer and two private secretary positions for the new department, according to the bill.

A transition team began creating the infrastructure for the new department on July 1 and the administrative infrastructure is scheduled for completion on July 1, 2023.

The department will become fully operational on Jan. 1, 2024, according to the bill.

The current Department of Public Safety will become the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and will operate separately from DLE, Ige said.

“Hawaii is the only state in the country that doesn’t have a centralized, independent state law enforcement agency,' the governor said when signing the bill. "The new department will allow more efficient and effective emergency response, criminal law enforcement, investigations and homeland security operations."

The bill had broad support from law enforcement.

“The Department of Public Safety corrections and law enforcement divisions have distinctly different and unique missions," said Public Safety Director Max Otani. "Once the conversion of Public Safety to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is complete, the department will be able to focus on a single mission to administer the corrections, rehabilitation, and reentry of the inmate population."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said in a letter opposing the bill the state spent more on public safety than any other department.

"Cut the astronomical amount of money that our government spends on law enforcement and incarceration and redirect that money towards data-driven solutions such as health care, housing, education, treatment, counseling, human services in our communities, violence prevention programs, diversion, bail, sentencing, probation and parole reform and restorative justice," ACLU Policy Director Carrie Ann Shirota wrote in the letter.

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