The Honolulu Police Department confirmed Friday that it has canceled special COVID-19 enforcement patrols amid allegations of overtime abuse, including against at least 10 officers who were found to have logged 200 to 300-plus hours of overtime over the course of five weeks.

In a Nov. 10 internal memo, department leaders were notified that 59 officers working on the department’s COVID-19 enforcement team had been flagged in a recent audit for apparent overtime violations. It said officers worked a “significant number” of hours “in excess of explicit instructions.”

Records show that two officers — a husband and wife — recorded more than 300 hours of overtime each from Sept. 27 to Oct. 31, about the equivalent of working a double shift every day for 35 days.

Honolulu Police Department patch.
The Honolulu Police Department confirmed it has canceled special COVID-19 enforcement patrols amid allegations of overtime abuse. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Meanwhile, eight officers said they clocked between 200 and 256 hours of overtime during the five-week period. And 49 officers logged between 130 and 198 hours of overtime.

The memo says officers are limited to earning 20 hours of overtime a week.

City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said the hours don’t seem realistic and stressed her utmost concern is the safety of the officers and the public.

“People get tired. Physically and mentally,” she said. “And that’s when mistakes can be done.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Honolulu police have been saddled with more work than ever.

Tasked with enforcing emergency orders, the department created COVID-19 enforcement teams, which were funded with federal money, to alleviate some of the extra stress placed on patrols.

Off-duty officers can volunteer for the overtime work.

Responsibilities include checking in on quarantine violators and citing people for not wearing masks. The teams also respond to 911 complaints about COVID-19 violations.

Shannon Alivado, chair of Honolulu’s Police Commission, hadn’t seen the overtime audit before HNN brought it to her attention. She called its findings disappointing and wants more information, including details about what those shifts entailed.

However, she gave the department credit for initiating a review of the timesheets.

“I think with this internal audit the department is willing to be held accountable,” she said.

The Honolulu Police Department said Friday that administrators learned of the irregularities last week and officers found to be in violation will be subject to disciplinary action.

“A subsequent review has revealed multiple violations of the department’s overtime policies, and administrative investigations have been opened,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“The use of COVID enforcement teams has been suspended until further notice. This decision was made by the HPD administration independent of any outside sources and will allow us time to review the procedures. COVID-related complaints from the public will be handled by on-duty patrol officers based on availability.”

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