State, City Government Failed Us

State, City Government Failed Us During Iolani Palace Takeover on Statehood Day
By Bob Jones, 8/18/2008 10:22:39 AM

There’s always some risk in early judging of police and official handling of big-publicity events such as the latest Iolani Palace intrusion, but the Friday incursion by members of an obscure Hawaiian sovereignty group from Maui doesn’t leave much room for public doubt that state and city governments failed us.

Friday was significant – Admission To Statehood Day. The governor, her DLNR chief, Laura Thielen, and her attorney general, Mark Bennett, should have been in contact with Honolulu police chief Boisse Correa to be prepared for the eventuality of any demonstration at the palace. That’s what smart leaders do.

They should long ago have worked out jurisdictional matters; who has detention and arrest powers and under which circumstances. That’s what smart leaders do.

There should have been either state or city police that day at the main gates to anticipate problems. That’s what smart leaders do.

But remember that when that first group locked the gates and occupied the grounds, Gov. Lingle seems to have opted to prevent DLNR chief Thielen from sending in the state cops. I’d sure like to hear Thielen speak up honestly on that. Chief Correa went in, in civvies, and sat and talked with the occupation leader. I think that was an okay move. No sense sending in SWAT when there’s no harm. But by not arresting and prosecuting those who locked the gates, Lingle, Thielen, and Correa sent a clear message to others that there was a soft spot in enforcement of the law. If I had done that, would I have just had a sit-down chat with chief Correa? Yeah, right! That’s not what smart leaders do.

So “King” Jimmy Akahi of Haiku and his followers exploited that soft spot Friday. Now Lingle is saying she’ll seek prosecution to the full extent of the law. Why this time but not the last time? Jimmy can rightly be confused. After all, look at his history and arrest record. He’s no lawyer. He didn’t even sound on KITV like one of the smartest people in Haiku. If I were a judge I’d let him off for ignorance — and cite the failure of our leaders to clarify the law for ignorant people. I’d acquit every arrested person and feel good about it!

Chief Correa says he’ll investigate why his on-scene policeman drove away as a palace employee was yelling for help as she was slammed by the invaders. And why 911 operators said the palace wasn’t in police jurisdiction, only to have his SWAT people there an hour or so later. Thanks, chief. Gives us great confidence!

The governor, the DLNR’s Thielen and Chief Correa look pretty stupid on this one. I know Thielen is not stupid but I think she’s handcuffed by a politically-stupefied governor, and not helped out one bit by a police chief who’s been our weakest in 45 years, is physically impaired, and would be asked to retire if we were not in the middle of a mayoral election and Mufi Hannemann is unlikely to stir that pot right now.

It’s bizarre for Gov. Lingle to say she’ll check with the mayor and the chief about no police help on Friday without saying she’ll also ask Thielen why she didn’t have some state police on duty at the palace that significant day.

Thielen goes down as an unsmart leader on this one, and she’s not. She just bit off a bigger job than Lingle will allow her to chew. She should make that clear by resigning. She should save her honor. She’s a very honorable person.

Bob Jones is a MidWeek columnist and a 45-year journalist in Hawaii. Reach him at


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