State beefing up palace security

State to beef up palace security

Friday’s break-in has the state and city talking about change

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State officials are considering increased security for Iolani Palace because of the severity of Friday’s break-in.

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This to assure the security of Iolani Palace as well as those who work and visit there.

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There was never any fear of damage to the palace or the artifacts inside until the second group this year chained and locked the gates. Kingdom of Hawaii, Nation then broke into the palace.

“Sadly, that paradigm has changed,” state Attorney General Mark Bennett said yesterday at a news conference.

Bennett said he expects the state to beef up security because of the break-in Friday.

From that group, 23 people face charges ranging from criminal trespass to burglary and assault. James Akahi, the group’s purported king of Hawaii, threatened to chain himself to the throne.

The palace has 24-hour private security, but Bennett said the state will be “looking at all appropriate options.” He declined further comment in revealing more specific plans to heighten security.

Bennett met with Gov. Linda Lingle, Honolulu Police Chief Boisse Correa and other law enforcement officials on the jurisdictional questions that arose out of Friday’s incident.

In an interview, Lingle said, “This was the second incident, but this one involved a more serious situation. There’s been a history of this issue — long before I even became the governor — there’s been this jurisdictional issue and I just wanted to make certain that there was an unconditional assurance to me, to the people of the island of Oahu, that it doesn’t matter whose property you’re on, when there’s trouble you call HPD we’re going to get a response.”

Witnesses and palace employees alleged that a police sergeant did not help the palace’s facilities manager when she was allegedly assaulted by one of the protesters.

The Attorney General’s Office is continuing to investigate the allegation. HPD’s internal affairs division also is investigating, but Correa said the results won’t be released.

At a city news conference, Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who did not attend the meeting, said, “We also were able to re-emphasize that there are no jurisdictional lines, that if a citizen indeed is in trouble, in harm’s way and calls 911, the Honolulu Police Department will respond. It doesn’t matter what property it occurs on.”

Hannemann, however, appeared to react to the governor’s criticism of the Honolulu Police Department’s actions Friday night in responding to the alleged assault and the takeover of the palace grounds.

“I trust that the state will take this to heart and not be so quick to fingerpoint the next time we run down this kind of path again,” Hannemann said.

Lingle, in the interview, said, “We were also in complete agreement, we don’t want to look backwards now. Although we are investigating — the attorney general will complete the investigation and we’ll get a copy of it to HPD. We do want to know what happened in that specific instance — a woman allegedly being assaulted and an officer standing by and not doing anything and a 911 call that went unresponded to because there was jurisdictional questions. Beyond that, I don’t want to just relive history, I want to go forward.”

At the state news conference, Bennett said he wasn’t aware of any other request for police help that was turned down Friday.

Bennett also defended the state’s response time. The Kingdom of Hawaii, Nation began locking the palace gates about 5:30 p.m. The break-ins occurred about 8 p.m., and the group was arrested about 10 minutes afterward.

“We wanted to make sure we had enough people there to make sure (the arrests) can be done safely,” Bennett said.

About 50 state law enforcement officials — including sheriffs and the attorney general’s special agents — were present Friday night, in addition to about 30 police officers.

At the city news conference, Correa said he couldn’t go into the strategy that was discussed at yesterday’s meeting.

When asked what the response would be if a chaining of the palace gates and a takeover of the grounds occurred again, Correa repeatedly said: “Call 911, and you’re gonna get arrested.”

In response to a question as to why no active law enforcement action took place until after 8 p.m., about 2 1/2 hours after the pro-sovereignty group locked access, he said he didn’t want to second-guess the operation because it turned out positive.

“What usually happens is you want to go in with a force big enough to counteract the force that’s there,” he said. “We were trying to get those numbers up to bring enough officers and state people together to set up that strategy.”

Another group, the Hawaiian Kingdom Government, chained the gates and prevented public access to the palace in April. Since then, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has held public hearings on amending rules to enforce more security in the area.

Lingle told reporters: “Both DLNR and Public Safety did make a plan after April 30. I met with the chief at that time, in my office, and they were there and so they did have a plan. The plan was: Should things get out of control at all or get too big for them, the plan was to tell the Friends of Iolani Palace if you are in there and something occurs and we’re not there, call 911. That was the plan. In that sense it worked because that’s exactly what they did.”

In an interview, Mahealani Kahau, head of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government, said Akahi’s group crossed the line by breaking into the palace.

“It’s disappointing they should do that just to make a statement,” Kahau said. “You don’t need a throne to identify yourself.”

Kahau’s group has applied weekly for permits to gather at the palace after their attempted takeover in April. However, the organization was not present Friday during Akahi’s attempted takeover because Kahau was arranging a graduation party for her son, who attended Roosevelt High School.

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