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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

HPD recognizes four for top achievements

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Honolulu Police Department honored, from left, architect and volunteer policeman Melvin Nakaoka as reserve officer of the year; information specialist Michelle Yu as civilian employee of the year; drug-abuse resistance educator Josephine Hart Kaanehe as officer of the year; and Detective Randall Gratz as police parent of the year. The awards were presented yesterday at Waialae Country Club.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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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.

  • "Officer Josie," a graduate of Mililani High School and widowed mother of three children Ashley, 17, Mikela, 14, and Giovanni, 2 was solely responsible for teaching 38 anti-drug courses last year. The courses, each of them 10 to 12 weeks long, reached more than 1,200 elementary and middle school students in Wahiawa and 'Aiea. She also mentors HPD officers training to become DARE instructors and serves on Mililani High's PTSO scholarship board, Neighborhood Board No. 25 (Mililani/Waipi'o/ Melemanu) and the DARE Hawai'i board.

    "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."

  • Nakaoka, a Kalani High and University of Hawai'i graduate, has been with Ben Woo Architects for 11 years. One of the architectural projects he worked on is Hokua, a high-rise building in Kaka'ako.

    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.

  • Gratz, a Leilehua High graduate who is in his 25th year with HPD, has been an active Boy Scouts leader with Mililani Troop 164. During the summer of 2004, Gratz helped plan a five-day 50-mile hike through Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park for six young Scouts, including his son Kelsey, now 15 years old. In 2005, he volunteered as a staff member at the 2005 Boy Scouts National Jamboree in Virginia.

    "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.

  • Yu, an information specialist, was the go-to, behind-the-scenes person for media inquiries at HPD for the past two years when she filled in during illness of the department's media liaison. The Kamehameha Schools graduate and mother of two children Rachelle, 10, and Michael, 8 has been doing the work of two people, said HPD spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii. "She's truly a good person and the respect she receives from the media is reflected in the respect she has in the department," Fujii said.

    "I enjoy working with the media because there's never a dull moment," Yu said.

    Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.