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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 19, 2006

Judiciary imposes deadline on sheriff

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

The state sheriff's office is being asked that by July 1, it remove a desk in the O'ahu District Court building used to process prisoners arriving from correctional facilities or police stations.

Public safety officials say this will severely hinder their ability to handle prisoners who come to court because prisoners would be booked in one location, then would have to be taken to court.

Judiciary officials, however, said the Department of Public Safety promised 16 years ago that it would remove all law-enforcement facilities from the court once a permanent facility was found, and the space is needed for other functions.

Although a permanent home for the booking desk has not been found, in May 2005 the judiciary sent a letter to DPS asking that it remove "all functions relating to law enforcement" from judiciary buildings, according to Marsha Kitagawa, spokeswoman for the judiciary.

"Although (the Department of Public Safety) did finally relocate its warrants, evidence and firearms armory, motor pool, special emergency response team and other functions except for those related to the provision of court security by June 2005, the arrest and booking operation still remains housed in the District Court courthouse," Kitagawa said yesterday. "Although the issue involves a relatively small amount of space in the courthouse, the arrest and booking of individuals is a law-enforcement function which is inconsistent with the functions of the judiciary."

The request to move by July 1 is the latest attempt by the judiciary to make good on an agreement signed by DPS in 1990 stating the sheriffs would use judiciary facilities temporarily until a permanent headquarters could be found.

Removing the booking operations from District Court will mean cells must be constructed at a new location, which has yet to be identified, said DPS Deputy Director James Propotnick. Also, cells that surround the booking desk at District Court must remain to hold prisoners awaiting court appearances, he said.

"They (the state judiciary) did not give a reason they just feel they don't want it there," he said yesterday. "I understand the courts wanting more space but this isn't going to give them that. The cellblock has to be there in order to service the courts. We combine the booking procedures with the cellblock to give them a central location all law-enforcement agencies do."

The DPS received the eviction letter from judiciary administrators Walter M. Ozawa and Thomas R. Keller last Friday.

For more than a decade, the state has tried to secure funding and space for a headquarters for the 286 sheriff's deputies responsible for serving warrants, transporting prisoners, and policing state buildings and the airport.

The deputies are spread out among several temporary locations, including space leased from the judiciary, the airport, and the state Harbor's Division.

Reach Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.