The unfinished facility is at the center of an effort to create a ninth district in the area.

In his draft budget released Tuesday, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi signaled his intent to build a replacement police station in Pearl City starting in 2026. It would cost about $40 million over the next six years and “improve overall operations.”

But over on the Leeward Coast, a $16 million facility in Waianae sits unfinished and underused seven years after it was launched under a similar rationale.

Waianae’s police station still lacks a Live Scan machine for fingerprinting adults the police arrest, according to Maj. Gail Beckley, an officer from Waianae. “We did get word that we should be getting one by the summer,” Beckley told Honolulu City Council members this week.

The Live Scan machine is coming from the Attorney General’s Office, City council member Andria Tupola said. Meanwhile, officers have to drive adult suspects to Kapolei for processing, according to Tupola, who represents the Waianae coast. Juveniles can be processed at the station, however.

Despite opening in 2016, the Waianae station is a ghost ship, with only one officer to receive walk-ins. One or two officers sometimes come in to file paperwork, but the station’s top floor is unfinished and has no air conditioning, walls or electrical outlets, Beckley said.

“There’s nothing in there,” she said.

HPD Waianae Station 2nd floor loft area that was built for the future staff expansion and space. Mayor Caldwell, Councilmember Pine, Desoto and community members gather for opening and tour of the new HPD Waianae station located on Farrington Highway fronting porous parking asphalt in the lot.. 21 march 2016.
The Waianae Station second-floor loft area was built for future staff expansion. This part of the building is unchanged seven years later. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2016)

A video Tupola recently posted on her Instagram shows a room of the station bare and another room lined with construction materials.

Calls to complete the Waianae police station have increased amid a push to create a new patrol district and provide more resources for Oahu’s West Side.

The Push For A Ninth District

The station currently falls under the Honolulu Police Department’s District 8, which runs from Iroquois Point to Kaena Point. But most of the police resources are devoted to Kapolei, prompting the City Council’s Public Safety Committee to adopt a resolution on Thursday urging HPD to create a ninth patrol district for Waianae.

“Kapolei is not going to stop growing anytime soon,” Tupola said. “The Kapolei station at some point in time is going to have to just service Kapolei and Ewa, and Waianae station is going to have to just service us.”

Tupola introduced the resolution and her plan also seeks more police beats and officers, a new community policing program, and completing the Waianae station. 

The idea of a ninth police district has been circulating for years with little progress.

Nicholas Schlapak, the Honolulu chapter chair of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, remembers hearing about it in April 2009.

“The department was talking about District 9 then, and they’re still talking about District 9 now,” Schlapak told the Public Safety Committee in support of Tupola’s resolution.

There are the same number of police beats today, Schlapak said.

“Nothing has ever changed, regardless of the fact that there is a station there, a brand new one, and also that the population has increased exponentially since then,” he said.

Between 2010 and 2020, the population in Waianae grew 3%, from 13,177 to 13,614, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the same period, the population in Kapolei rose 41%, from 15,186 to 21,411.

Meanwhile, the police department is struggling with recruiting challenges and a shortage of officers.

HPD is short 393 officers, according to Tupola and Schlapak. HPD Chief Joe Logan told Civil Beat last month the number was 360 out of 1,800 sworn officers.

Logan said Sept. 14 that he would not staff more officers in District 8 or establish the new ninth district due to officer shortages, Tupola said.

The chief’s position hasn’t changed, according to HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu.

The chair of the Nanakuli-Maili Neighborhood Board said there has been an uptick in illegal activity in the area.

“The concern I really want to express is the increase in gaming establishments in our communities and there’s nothing that they can do,” Patty Kahanamoku-Teruya said in an interview.

“I’m not blaming the officers,” she said. “I’m blaming the public safety system and having less officers on the street.”

City Council member Andria Tupola introduced the resolution. (Courtesy Andria Tupola)

The Waianae station was envisioned as a 25,000-square-foot, two-story “district-level” facility with 14 holding cells. The building is three times larger than its predecessor, built in 1961. 

“In the future, when the fiscal situation permits, the HPD would create a new District 9 that will serve the Waianae coast from Nanakuli to Kaena Point,” a 2011 memo from the Department of Planning and Permitting said in describing the station.

After the station’s opening day, the county touted its unfinished state as a “feature” that “allows for upper floor expansion.”

Former City Council member Kym Pine hailed the station’s potential to hasten police response times.

But the new Waianae station didn’t get more officers, and earlier on, construction had hit a snag: the station’s radio antenna.

“When they decided to put the shovel in the ground, they realized that they couldn’t move the antenna nor stop it from communicating, for emergency reasons,” said Louis Galdeira, a community liaison for state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, and formerly for Pine.

Rear of HPD Waianae Station. Mayor Caldwell, Councilmember Pine, Desoto and community members gather for opening and tour of the new HPD Waianae station located on Farrington Highway. 21 march 2016.
The cost of finishing the Waianae station is estimated at $6 million. Issues with the antenna hampered construction. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2016)

The construction team had to lift the antenna, demolish the station, build the new one, then reinstall the antenna, Galdeira said. “The assumption is that’s how they ran out of money.”

The building went unfinished.

The pre-pandemic estimate to finish the station was between $5.5 million and $6 million, Beckley said.

In his proposed budget, Blangiardi allotted $4.2 million for the next fiscal year to improve police stations, but HPD confirmed that Waianae would not be among them. An additional $3.3 million was proposed to improve HPD headquarters.

“I don’t think it’s a priority for the police department because they don’t have the staff to put in there,” Galdeira said.

The number of new recruits each year is around 60, close to the number of officers who retire, Tupola said. And HPD must now compete against departments nationwide that offer incentives, another issue raised in Tupola’s resolution.

The North Las Vegas Police Department and Seattle Police Department both offer a $30,000 signing bonus for experienced police officers. Seattle offers a $7,500 bonus for new recruits.

HPD “is looking into possible incentives,” Yu said. 

The police union representative said contract negotiations are coming up soon, but the department is free to offer incentives at any time.

The council resolution urges HPD to consult with the union to consider incentives, like a one-time $1,500 housing allowance for new recruits or a $250 monthly payment for one year to retain officers nearing retirement. 

Schlapak wasn’t sure why such money hasn’t moved yet.

“A lot of it has to do with the attitude of the department,” he said.

Update: This story has been updated to include additional information from HPD and to correct the name of the neighborhood board.

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