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Staffing And Facility Upgrades Among Top Priorities For Public Safety Department

Casey Harlow / HPR
Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC)

State Department of Public Safety administrators outlined the department's budget priorities to lawmakers Tuesday at the state Capitol, including a request for $8.4 million over two years for staff on Mauna Kea.

The department is seeking $3.6 million for fiscal year 2020 and $10.3 million for fiscal 2021, but that does not include the amount that officials say will be needed if the protest against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea continues. That would require separate funds.

Department staffing is a major priority in the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers were told. DPS hopes to add another 42 permanent positions to its payroll,  including 15 corrections officer jobs at the Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC) where a riot broke out in March 2019.

The department also wants to hire psychiatric staff.

DPS is requesting funds to upgrade prison facilities across the state. The improvements include updating telephone and internet systems and facility maintenance.

Officials are requesting an additional $55 million in the supplemental budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 to fund the O?ahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) replacement project, build a health care unit at the Halawa Correctional Facility, and plan for the Maui Regional Public Safety Complex.

The DPS request for projected staffing on Mauna Kea includes $3.6 million for 2020, and $4.8 million in 2021.

That would be in addition to the $11.1 million already spent by law enforcement agencies on Mauna Kea, according to the latest state attorney general's estimates.

Protesters have blocked the access road leading up to Mauna Kea, and the sheriff department, which is under DPS, was one of the law enforcement agencies present during the protests.

According to DPS Director Nolan Espinda, the budget request is based on the amount the department has expended over the six months of the protest.

"We mirrored that, in anticipation that, at the very least that might be the repeated cost for the same period of time," he said. "And if not, it would be less."

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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