The Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi recognized Officer John Balberde as the East Hawaiʻi “Officer of the Month” for January and Officers Charisse Wakita and Earl Haskell as “Officers of the Month” for February.
Balberde was recognized for apprehending a repeat offender and convicted felon who was wanted for burglary. Wakita and Haskell were recognized for performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on an unresponsive man. All three officers were honored Thursday (February 27) during a luncheon ceremony in Hilo.
On October 10, Officer Balberde saw a suspicious-looking man at a park in Hilo. The man matched the description of a suspected burglar, so Balberde confronted him. When he did, the suspect reached into his pocket and attempted to throw away some crystal methamphetamine but was unsuccessful. Balberde also observed the suspect trying to conceal one of several rings that matched the description of jewelry stolen in the burglary. Detectives recovered them as evidence. In addition, Balberde uncovered signs that the suspect was in possession of other illegal drugs. When the officer returned to the police station, he initiated a separate drug investigation that led to arrests and charges for five other illegal drug offenses, four of them felonies.
According to Sergeant Paul Kim, Balberde’s “keen perception, attention to detail and proactive investigation led not only to the capture of a repeat offender, but the prevention of untold numbers of other crimes against the community.”
On Christmas Day just before noon, Officers Wakita and Haskell were assigned to a dropped 911 call that originated in the area of the old Hilo airport. The only sound police dispatchers could hear was moaning.
Wakita and Haskell searched the area and found an unresponsive man lying on the ground under a banyan tree. They administered CPR until Fire/Rescue personnel arrived about five minutes later. The officers’ investigation revealed that the man had preexisting medical conditions. An ambulance took him to Hilo Medical Center, where he eventually was admitted into the intensive care unit.
“Officers Wakita and Haskell displayed a great deal of calm and determination under stressful conditions,” wrote Sergeant Lorenzo Artienda in nomination papers. “They showed a great deal of respect for life as evidenced by their decisive actions.”
As “Officer of the Month,” Balberde, Wakita and Haskell are each eligible for “Officer of the Year.”
The East Hawaiʻi “Officer of the Month” award is a project of the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi.