HILO — The Hawaii Police Department is adding a hostage negotiation control center to its fleet of vehicles.
The department decided to add a custom-made truck because its current vehicle, a modified ambulance, isn’t working as well as planned and can’t be driven on some of the island’s worst roads, Assistant Chief Marshall Kanehailua said Wednesday.
“It’s invaluable when protecting your officers in a volatile situation,” Kanehailua said. “We want to get the best equipment we can to get us into the remote areas.”
The vehicle will be paid for with federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security, said Bill Hanson, administrative officer for the county Civil Defense Agency, which is working with the Police Department on the funding. The cost is unknown at this time — the bids for the vehicle aren’t due until Jan. 15.
The vehicle must be delivered by June 15, under the terms of the bid.
Kanehailua said the hostage negotiation vehicle goes out every time the Special Response Team is deployed. The Special Response Team, created in 2000, operates from an armored Bearcat truck the department purchased for $240,000 in 2007. The department also purchased a $330,899 mobile command center in 2004. Both were purchased with federal Homeland Security grants.
“We don’t necessarily wait for a hostage situation to take place before we activate the team,” Kanehailua said.
The Special Response Team has responded to 96 high-risk incidents from its inception through June 30, 2010, according to the Police Department’s 2010-11 annual report, the latest report available. During the 2010-11 fiscal year, the team responded to one barricaded situation, served four high-risk warrants and conducted six security details, the annual report says.
The department has had mixed success with its hostage negotiations.
In 2003, the first major incident after the Special Response Team was created, the team was called to a standoff where an armed man had taken another man hostage inside a hotel room at the Naniloa Hotel in Hilo. After a lengthy standoff, the subject gave himself up.
In 2009, however, police shot and killed a 60-year-old man after he apparently fired shots from a firearm he brandished as he exited a barricaded home in the Kehena Beach Estates subdivision in Puna.
“We try to defuse the situation, try to contact the individual and talk them down and have them come out,” Kanehailua said.
The supplier of the equipment is not required to be on Hawaii Island, but it must be able to show it’s in a position to “render prompt service and to furnish replacement parts” for the vehicle, according to the bid specifications. Replacement parts must be provided within five business days while the vehicle is under warranty.
The department is looking for a vehicle with a minimum 176-inch wheel base, 6.8 liter V-10 engine and dual rear wheels. It must have a minimum 16-foot-long work area with an 84-inch ceiling. It must also be equipped with flashing lights, floodlights, galley, rest room, cabinets, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, closet, file cabinets, counters, benches and latchable office chairs. A generator is required, as are two cellphones, landlines and police radios.
“Grant funding is specific to certain projects,” Kanehailua said, adding that the money doesn’t come out of the county budget, and can’t be substituted for other projects.