The Controversial Robocop Of Lanai

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - August 04, 2010
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You might think that Lanai, population 3,000, on a robust tourism day would escape most of the tribulations of Oahu, Maui, Kaua’i and the Big Island.

Not so. It has plenty of change problems.

That, and Robocop.

Nothing but Robocop is new. Lanai was pioneer Hawaiian from about the year 1000 to the late 1800s. Then came the haole, who bought land and did agriculture and imported Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese and Puerto Rican workers until they outnumbered the locals.

Pineapple failed in 1992. David Murdock and Castle & Cooke, buyers of 98 percent of the island, built two luxury resort hotels. Big change. Now Castle & Cooke wants to build a $750-million wind farm and sell electricity to Oahu by under-sea cable. The community’s heatedly divided on that.


 

Then there’s police officer Kirk Pyland, usually referred to as Robocop, from the 1987 Peter Weller movie about a policeman who’s part machine. He may have the community more divided than the wind farm proposal.

He ticketed a 9-year-old girl for bike riding without a helmet, handcuffed a motorist who didn’t stop quick enough when hailed and reportedly cited island-owner Murdock for having a child in his vehicle without a car seat.

Everybody I spoke to had a story about Robocop. But he’s still there upholding the law to the letter.

I guess that’s better than some 35 years ago when I reported to a cop that the Jeep I’d rented in Lanai City had failing brakes, no emergency brake and no safety sticker. He said, “I’ll check on that.” Yeah, right. Last I ever heard.

You’ve got to mellow out on Lanai. Albert Morita was the longtime DLNR enforcement officer there and snagged his share of local poachers. He made some enemies. “But usually just one guy, no problem,” he told me. “Two or three and you add some beer and that can be a problem!”

Lanai still doesn’t have parking meters. It has some paddleboard versus swimmers problems at Hulapoe Bay. Gas costs about $4.68 a gallon. The local theater was promoting Gone With The Wind when I was there. And there’s a seven-day Community Fitness Center that invites you to “pick up a flat belly.”


There’s a fantastic new Culture & Heritage Center, and people are finally discouraging touristic stone-stacking and rock-drawing at Keahiakawelo, improperly known as Garden of the Gods. (The trees in Lanai City are improperly called Norfolk pines by visitors. They are Cook Island pines.)

There are two supermarkets - Richard’s and Pine Isle - and several restaurants. Blue Ginger does the most business but its constantly slamming screen door drives you nuts. The small but no longer inexpensive, 77-year-old, 11-room Hotel Lanai draws those who prefer rustic to the spa-resort crowds.

Where Lanai is headed nobody knows. The residents seem to play it as it lies, day by day.

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