Once Honolulu’s rail transit service opens, city officials will rely on private security personnel to handle the bulk of the patrols along the system’s stations, platforms and driverless trains. They’ve also hired a prominent local law enforcement figure to help oversee that operation.

Allied Security, a private firm contracted by the city, will handle those transit patrols, according to Honolulu Department of Transportation Services Director Roger Morton.

Some 10 personnel from Allied will patrol the first 10 miles and nine stations once that portion of the system opens, according to DTS. The plan, Morton said, is to add more security personnel as more stations open.

Aloha Stadium rail station entrance with Holo card readers.
Private security under contract to the city will patrol the Honolulu rail lines and its stations, such as this one at Aloha Stadium. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

The city had considered whether to use Honolulu Police Department officers for those patrols instead but opted to go with private security, he added. The approach makes sense because those forces could be based at the rail line’s operations center in Waipahu, he said.

“That was the preferred mode for HPD as well,” Morton added.

The private guards will not carry firearms, tasers or batons, according to DTS.

HPD will still respond to incidents that occur along Oahu’s future fixed rail system, in response to requests from those security patrols, Morton said.

Overseeing the private patrol operations on behalf of the city will be Thomas Aiu, a former special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, a former security head for Hawaiian Airlines who in a lawsuit later accused that company of widespread wrongdoing, and a finalist in both 2009 and 2017 to become Honolulu’s police chief.

Aiu also regularly appeared on Hawaii News Now as a law enforcement expert, providing analysis and commentary for relevant stories. The news outlet had stopped using him in March when he again applied to be Honolulu police chief, according to HNN News Director Scott Duff. Aiu stated in a text Wednesday that he had “elected not to continue in that role” with the outlet due to his new city management position.

HNN resumed using him on Sunday, however, when he was quoted in an HNN story as a law enforcement expert. The outlet did not identify him as a city employee.

Aiu now works in DTS’ newly created safety and security office as manager of emergency and security systems, according to Morton.

Allied has a two-year contract with the city for nearly $2.6 million, according to DTS.

Thomas Aiu, a former special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, has been hired by the city to oversee security along the Honolulu rail line. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2017

In addition to Allied and HPD, there will be a group of Hitachi Rail Honolulu employees that serve as “ambassadors” along the rail line, similar to the green fluorescent shirt-wearing Aloha Ambassadors in Waikiki. Those Hitachi employees will act as additional “eyes and ears,” Morton said.

The exact model for how to handle security along transit systems varies from place to place, and it often depends on how big the area is and how many jurisdictions the transit system passes through, Morton said.

New York City, for example, has a transit bureau division of the New York Police Department that patrols that city’s subway system and rail routes. Morton said that Honolulu considered earlier in rail’s planning stages setting up a similar transit division for HPD but ultimately declined. Such an approach makes more sense for New York due to its thousands of miles of transit routes and millions of daily riders, he said.

It’s still not clear when the first half of Honolulu’s rail line will open. City officials have most recently pegged early 2023 as the launch for passenger service. However, the system still needs to clear its trial phase, and it remains to be seen how extensive the repairs to the widespread “shear” cracking found on piers supporting many of the westside stations will be — and whether they’ll lead to further delays.

Support Civil Beat during the season of giving.

As a small nonprofit newsroom, our mission is powered by readers like you. But did you know that less than 1% of readers donate to Civil Beat?

Give today and support local journalism that helps to inform, empower and connect.

About the Author