Class of 1981
By Gloria Kobayashi
Police Officer Robert Hironaka has served with the Hawaii County Police Department since 1985, a period of 22 years. He was a uniform patrolman in the districts of Ka’u, Puna and South Hilo. He was with the Hilo Vice Section from 1993 to 2006. He has found his career exciting and rewarding, with never a dull day.
His job is dangerous because police officers respond to disturbances that may be related to a domestic situation, fights, drug or alcohol abuse. People call the police when they are unable to settle things peacefully or when they feel a law has been broken. It is especially difficult when people are hurt or even killed due to a violent situation or a bad traffic accident. Officers often work long hours due to lack of manpower.
Over the years, Robert has observed changes in the public’s perception of a police officer. Neighborhood Watch programs have begun to help reduce high crime levels in communities. However, the court system has made it harder to convict someone. Jail time is not often handed down, and if it is, is not for long periods of time keeping criminals on the streets. He has also noticed that more teenagers are getting in trouble and being arrested for felony offenses and violent crimes. With more parents working, children are often left without parental guidance and supervision, which may result in more problems with their children. Also, crystal methamphetamine use causes huge health and social problems in our community. Everyone is affected, from the addict who burglarizes your house, the driver who is injured by a person high on ice, to a child not being fed because his parents use food money to buy ice. Ice use causes more violence due to feuding dealers and/or abused families.
Hawaii County has a shortage of police officers due to stricter entrance requirements, lower wages and a higher cost of living compared to living on the mainland.
Robert prepared for his job by getting good grades in high school and earning his A.S. degree in police science from Honolulu Community College. It also helped that he “stayed out of trouble,” while in school. His advice to students who want to pursue a career in police enforcement is to keep your criminal record clean, read a police exam book, and to stay in good health. He said that some of the best officers he’s worked with are women law enforcement officers.
In January 2006, he received a distinguished service award from the Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington, D.C. While serving as a vice officer, he helped solve cases involving the recovery of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and crystal meth. Through his job he has also had the opportunity to travel to the East Coast and the South Pacific, including Guam, Saipan and Samoa. His hobbies include hunting, archery and side rappelling.
As a proud member of the class of 1981, Robert remembers a very small school and great teachers who stressed high moral standards, making right decisions and the need to get a good education.
Other Waiakea High School graduates who serve with the Hawaii County Police Department include: Lt. Randy Medeiros and Officers Alan Kimura, Renee Morinaka, Edwin Namohala, Robert Pauole, Kimo Siemen, Robert Stewart and Roylen Valera.