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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2002

Police union leader says communication a priority

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Boosting morale through better communication is one of the primary goals of the newly elected president of the State of Hawai'i Organization of Police Officers, Tenari Ma'afala.

"I don't have much union experience but what I do have is the heart, soul and mind to do this job," said the 38-year-old Ma'afala, a McKinley High School graduate who has been decorated twice for bravery in his 13-year Honolulu Police Department career.

"There's a morale problem because of a gap between administration and the rank and file in Honolulu and better communication is the best way to bridge the gap," said Ma'afala.

He said officers are not made aware of policy decisions affecting them in a timely manner.

The union, too, has a responsibility to establish a communication link with its 3,000 members statewide, two-thirds of whom are with HPD. "We're going to set up a monthly or bimonthly newsletter from the state board to get our members more involved," Ma'afala said.

The new president was disappointed that only 700 members voted in the recent election.

"It tells you there's a lack of participation," he said. "We want all members to realize how important a role the union plays in their careers and why they are paying dues.

"It's no power trip for me or the other new officers to be given titles and we don't intend to be punching bags for the membership. But we will be a voice and I promise we're going to fight for what the membership deserves."

Existing retirement and medical benefits is a statewide issue that SHOPO will defend, said Ma'afala. "The state is pushing for changes but we're going to at least keep what we got," he said.

Candidates who ran on the same "right is right, wrong is wrong, fair is fair" platform with Ma'afala were all elected. The union's new officers, all from Honolulu, are patrol Sgt. Brian Lee, vice president; Lt. Mitch Kiyuna, secretary; officer Duane Samson, treasurer; and Detective Loren Andrade and officers Malcolm Lutu and John Haina, at-large directors.

Ma'afala, a Waikiki District Crime Reduction Unit officer on special assignment to the Narcotics/Vice Division, said that sometime this year HPD will implement a new Administrative Review Board policy related to internal disciplinary cases involving officers.

The existing protocol calls for the officer's immediate supervisor to investigate a complaint and forward the findings to the division commander, who presents the case to the board. The board is made up of assistant chiefs, who render a decision. The officer can be accompanied by a union representative at the board hearing but the only the officer is allowed to speak to the board.

"Chief (Lee) Donohue has agreed that the union representative will now be allowed to speak," Ma'afala said. "Our stand is if the officer is right, we'll fight for what is due him. If the officer is wrong, we will fight to get what we can but the membership will know that the officer will have to take his punishment. The new process will better allow officers to believe they are being afforded due process at (Administrative Review Board) hearings."