HPD recognizes four for top achievements
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
An officer whose anti-drug message reaches thousands of young students; an architect who worked more than 250 hours as a volunteer policeman; a model scouting parent; and a woman who did the work of two were honored for outstanding contributions to the Honolulu Police Department.
Josephine Hart Kaanehe, 43, a 19-year HPD veteran and Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructor known to public school students in Central O'ahu as "Officer Josie," was named Honolulu's 2006 police officer of the year at The 200 Club's annual breakfast and awards ceremony yesterday at Waialae Country Club.
Others honored were Melvin Nakaoka, 40, reserve officer of the year; Detective Randall Gratz, 48, police parent of the year, and Michelle Yu, 43, civilian employee of the year.
They each received $1,000 from The 200 Club, a support group for HPD and the Honolulu Fire Department; an Ala Moana Center gift certificate, roundtrip tickets for two from Aloha Airlines to any Neighbor Island; and a plaque from HPD.
"I tell students we can't all choose our backgrounds or where we live, but each of us have a chance in life and can make a difference if you believe in yourself," Kaanehe said. "I always tell them that drugs will change their lives so if they don't do it, someday their kids won't do it and that's how we'll make a difference."
In 2005, Nakaoka worked 238 hours in metropolitan Honolulu patrol district and volunteered for 12 of 44 special events assignments, giving an additional 48 hours.
Nakaoka is one of 74 HPD reserve officers who augment the full-time force. The reserve officers aren't paid and in 2005, they accounted for more than 15,000 hours, said Sgt. Lawrence Sugai, the reserve officers' supervisor.
After six years of being an architect, Nakaoka decided to change careers and become a police officer. He graduated from the police academy but returned to architecture when his friend started his own firm. Love of police work led to Nakaoka becoming a reserve officer.
He manages to hold a full-time job, do volunteer police work and coach a baseball team that includes his 7-year-old son, Ethan.
"It's demanding but I'm lucky to have a good wife," Nakaoka said. Nakaoka and his wife, Denise, also are parents of 18-month-old Noah.
"I enjoy the quality time spent with not only my son but other boys because we're outside doing things together instead of watching TV," Gratz said. "Besides, it allows me to be a kid, too."
Kelsey expects to become an Eagle Scout this summer. His brother, 11-year-old Kodey, recently joined Troop 164, ensuring that their father will be involved a few more years.
Randy Gratz's wife, Lynn, is also a big supporter of scouting.
"I enjoy working with the media because there's never a dull moment," Yu said.
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.