KHON2 investigation into a state Hummer leads to other fancy vehicles

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Ever since KHON2 did a story about a state Hummer, the questions keep on coming about the state using everything from fancy SUVs to brand new Harley-Davidsons.

People are asking KHON2 to dig deeper about what the state sheriffs are driving and at what cost.

Last month in response to a viewer question about why the state would need to drive a Hummer around, KHON2 found out it was in the Sheriff’s fleet — an asset forfeiture, seized from a drug dealer.

Public Safety told KHON2 it’s destined to carry a pricey radio paid for with a federal grant. Multiple sources said dig deeper about that Hummer and more.

KHON2 sought clarifications from the department, which turned down multiple requests for interviews.

KHON2 also turned to a former public safety director.

“I was surprised because I thought the vehicle was gone. I wanted to dispose of the Hummer,” former department director under the previous administration Clayton Frank said. “I was perplexed to find that somehow the Hummer gets resurrected.”

Resurrected, despite what Frank says, was a meeting several years ago with top public safety officials where it was decided to goodbye to the SUV.

“Either through means of a swap, exchange, and finding other alternative means of how we could dispose of the Hummer,” Frank said. “It was cost prohibitive. During 2007-8-9 the state was in a budget crunch, we found the Hummer was not the most ideal vehicle for us to be using.”

In response, Public Safety said in a written statement:

“There has never been a directive given to dispose of the Hummer2. Multiple approvals were given for the current use. And there are no plans to get rid of the H2.”

But let’s go back a few years again — what was the trouble?

The past director said the pressure was on after a complaint came to the governor’s office that the vehicle was seen off-roading at Sandy Beach in the afternoon.

“Were we doing some kind of exercise or anything for that purpose?” Frank recalls asking his department. “I found out, no. The response I received was they were burning off the gas in the vehicle.”

Sound familiar?

Here’s the current administration’s answer to KHON2 last month when KHON2 asked why the Hummer had recently been seen as far west as a lieutenant’s home in Ewa Beach, as far east as the Koko Head firing range.

“We had to burn off gas because we didn’t have the resources to pump the gas out of the tank, so we just did it the most regular anybody else would do, just drive it around,” Deputy Director Shawn Tsuha previously told KHON2.

Turns out that’s not the only really big tank in the sheriff’s fleet.

Tipsters also asked, what about the Lincoln Navigator they always see sheriffs using near District Court? KHON2 saw it on the first drive up Alakea Street to check it out.

Public Safety warned KHON2 in a statement:

“The Lincoln Navigator is an asset forfeiture vehicle and has been used as a surveillance vehicle in an active investigation. Any identification whatsoever would jeopardize the investigation and possibly put our law enforcement officers at risk.”

Yet brown-uniformed sheriff staff were among the passengers getting out of it midday when KHON2 saw it right out on the curb — so we don’t think they are blowing its cover.

“The better part of security would tell you, you wouldn’t be parking a vehicle, if it was used for undercover purposes, in plain daylight especially on Alakea Street,” Frank said. “There’s a lot of traffic, there’s a lot of people that are going to court, and some of them for criminal matters, that would have sight of this vehicle.”

As to the Navigator’s use over years past, Frank said, “The vehicle was to be used by a sheriff supervisor or for the sheriff office to utilize for their office use. I didn’t believe it was to be used undercover.”

Then there are the motorcycles.

Sources sent KHON2 the photos of law-enforcement-model Harley-Davidson cycles, labeled “sheriff,” taken recently at the airport.

Public Safety told us the department “wasn’t involved” with the purchase and has “no say on what a private owner does with his personal bike.”

KHON2 was shown two sheriff-labeled bikes.

Dan Ryan, known as Madman Dan, at Cycle City helped fill in some blanks. He says it all started at Harley dealers meeting last summer.

“So we ordered two bikes, we had a choice of color but I figured I knew that the sheriff’s department here was brown so I just said OK make me brown ones,” Ryan said. “So we ordered two police bikes, we didn’t reach out to anybody, nobody in the sheriff’s department or HPD or the government. I just decided hey I’m going to buy two bikes.”

One is still registered to Cycle City, the other to a sheriff’s lieutenant. He says that person paid full price, no state money involved.

So what are they for?

“We’ve used them in parades and have allowed them on a rental basis to use them for personal use just to get the bike out there to start a buzz, which obviously because of this interview is working, so that’s kind of cool,” Ryan said.

Cool to many, troublesome to others.

“I was informed that they had bikes and it was for use at the airport,” Frank said. “There may be a misconception from the general public that the sheriffs are actually engaged in the use of the motorcycles.”

Besides the two bikes the dealer brought in on spec, will there be more, an official or state-ordered fleet perhaps?

“The sheriffs, I know that the idea has been tossed around before, and maybe they’re getting close to executing?” Ryan said.

Public Safety told KHON2, “There are no plans for a bike division.”

That leaves county police still as the island’s only official motorcycle law enforcement fleet, currently on BMWs, whether for police or sheriffs. Ryan says hope for the Harleys is still being held out.

“So all we can do is hope, if we get the message out that Harley-Davidson has a great product and they’re safe and they’re competitive then maybe the next time a bid comes up we can show why it’s a better alternative,” Ryan said.

Meanwhile, Public Safety confirms the bikes are not being used in an official capacity and they say the blue lights have since been taken off.

Related story: What’s up with a state hummer?

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