‘Grandpa’ Gang Reports For Duty
By CAROL CHANG
The urge to protect children has brought four local men in blue out of retirement and back on campus to revive a lively safety lesson for Windward students.
Leighton Kaonohi Sr., a former Kaneohe resident who reunited this past winter with colleagues from his HPD days, quickly set about booking assemblies at Blanche Pope, Waimanalo, Kahaluu and Kahuku elementary schools for early March. The men wanted to deliver their message before the idleness of spring break brought unsupervised kids together with dangerous adults.
“We wanted to revive that child safety message of what to do if you meet a stranger as you walk home,” explained Pastor Eldean Kukahiko of Kahaluu who, like Val Huihui and Helamen Kaonohi, had once been on the No Hope In Dope team of Officer Honolulu (Leighton Kaonohi’s trademark character) in the 1990s road show.
“We were once fearless, young, strong cops with experience in busting the drug dealers,” recalled Kaonohi. (Helamen is his cousin). “We called our rap group ‘Lawmen Taking Down Druggies.’ Today,” he added, chuckling, “we look more like grandpas squealing on druggies — on our cell phones!”
The men held the kids’ attention through song-and-dance routines and plenty of loud aloha at each school in March, just as Officer Honolulu intended. “It dawned on me that the conventional approach to teaching child safety as it related to dealing with strangers failed to protect children from predators,” he said, noting that they must have a clear concept of “stranger danger” — what a stranger is, how to avoid contact, how to put that person on the defensive (a crowd of kids all pointing and screaming “help!” together), and how to describe the stranger later to police.
Now living in St. George, Utah, Kaonohi is firmly committed to coming back here to continue the effort. He also takes his message to Utah schools, arriving via a helicopter in full Officer Honolulu regalia. On Oahu, however, there are no funds and no support from HPD at this point, he said, because of the department’s own DARE program, so he hopes to form a nonprofit and obtain grants to continue the assemblies.
If you pass by a school during one of their gigs, you’ll know it. Kaonohi and crew also plan to film a pilot TV cable show in the Kahaluu area soon, complete with his arrival by helicopter.
To learn more about the renewed cause or to offer help, call Kaonohi at 277-0227 or program coordinator Kukahiko at 741-4524.