Governor David Ige today signed HB2171 establishing a new Department of Law Enforcement in Hawaiʻi. The last time a new department was formed in the state was over 30 years ago, in 1989, with the creation of the Department of Public Safety.
The new DLE includes the Department of Public Safety’s Law Enforcement Division (State Sheriff Division and Narcotics Enforcement Division) and Internal Affairs Office, Department of Transportation Harbors Division and the Department of the Attorney General’s Criminal Investigative Division. The new department will also include the Department of Defense Office of Homeland Security, and the Hawaiʻi State Fusion Center.
“Hawaiʻi is the only state in the country that doesn’t have a centralized, independent state law enforcement agency. The new department will allow more efficient and effective emergency response, criminal law enforcement, investigations and homeland security operations,” said Gov. Ige.
“The consolidation will centralize command and control for the State’s critical incident management, improve interoperable communications, and the ability to handle complex multi-island investigations and improve overall efficiency of statewide law enforcement operations. The new DLE will also be able to provide additional resources for other law enforcement agencies in both independent and joint operations,” said Jordan Lowe, PSD Deputy Director for Law Enforcement.
The projected timeline for the transition includes the following:
- July 1, 2022 – Transition team begins implementation and creation of framework and infrastructure for the new DLE.
- July 1, 2023 – Administrative infrastructure is established in the DLE. The process to begin filling all allocated positions begins.
- January 1, 2024 – Transfer of Department of the Attorney General non-statutorily mandated investigative functions and related employees, Department of Transportation Harbors Division criminal law enforcement functions and related employees, and Department of Defense Office of Homeland Security, to include the Hawaiʻi State Fusion Center.
- Jan. 1, 2024 – The Department of Public Safety renamed to Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR). Both departments become independent and fully operational.
“The Department of Public Safety corrections and law enforcement divisions have distinctly different and unique missions. Once the conversion of Public Safety to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is complete, the Department will be able to focus on a single mission to administer the corrections, rehabilitation, and reentry of the inmate population,” said Max Otani, PSD Director in a state issued press release.
“We want to thank everyone involved in this past Legislative session who contributed to this momentous achievement to get this bill passed, creating our new State Department of Law Enforcement,” said State Sheriff William “Billy” Oku Jr. “It would take a week or longer to name everyone, but we want to thank the many people within the Department of Public Safety Sheriff Division who came together to craft the bill, along with all of the law enforcement agencies that threw their support behind it, and the lawmakers who saw the importance and passed it. We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s hard work and support.”