WAIMEA — With 20 years on the police force under her belt, Sherry Bird easily stepped into her new role as captain of the Waimea Police Station Aug. 1.
Her responsibilities include overseeing a lieutenant, four sergeants, one school resource officer, three community policing officers and 25 patrol officers.
Incidents in Waimea that most often cross Captain Bird’s desk are trespassing, burglaries and domestic violence — a far cry from her previous post as lieutenant in charge of the Area II Criminal Investigation Section (CIS) for North Kohala, South Kohala, Kona and Ka’u. Cases ranged from homicides and suspicious deaths to robberies, felony assaults, felony thefts and other violent cases.
Prior to that, she was the lieutenant for the region’s narcotics division.
“While I was in charge of that division, I realized a lot of our crimes stem from drugs,” Captain Bird said. “I had a real passion for those cases because I felt like drugs stem into other investigations and cases, so if we could attack that angle maybe we could curb everything else.”
She has found Waimea welcoming.
“The Waimea community is really great. They’re very involved and want to help. That’s really refreshing,” Captain Bird said.
“I’m really lucky too, because the police officers and supervisors here are very sharp and passionate about their work and keeping everyone as safe as possible,” she added.
Her beat, or territory, covers 688 square miles, including Waimea, Kawaihae, Waikoloa Village and the resort area.
In nearly three months on the job, Captain Bird has regularly attended Waimea Community Association (WCA), Hawaii Island Safety and Security and Professionals Association, South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee (SKTSC) and Domestic Violence Awareness Committee (DVAC) meetings monthly.
“She attended our last DVAC meeting — which was her first day of work as captain of the Waimea Police Department,” said DVAC member Donni Sheather. “She also brought Lt. Pauole and it was his first day of work in Waimea too.”
Captain Bird’s typical day in the office begins with reviewing police reports — incidents that happened the night before or several days prior.
“Their supervisor reviews them first to make sure they’re complete and thorough. If not, they send it back. Sometimes when officers go to the scene, they are overwhelmed with wanting to do everything and forget a thing or two,” she said.
Since assuming her new role, Captain Bird has several key priorities.
“There is always room for improvement in a police force,” she said. “I try to get the officers in training whenever possible. I tell them that my number one goal for them and everyone is safety.
She continued, “It’s a dangerous time nowadays for police, so training is key — such as investigative training. If they come upon a scene, they need to know how to develop and document quality investigations. If it’s a murder, we need to have done what’s needed to make it better for CIS.”
Captain Bird reports directly to Major Robert Wagner, who is based at the Kona station.
Twenty years on the job
Captain Bird knew she wanted to be a police officer as far back as she can remember. Born in Japan, she spent the first part of her childhood moving from base to base for her father’s Marine assignments in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and ultimately Oahu, where he was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Kaneohe during her teen years.
In her early 20s, she served three years in the Marines while stationed in Germany.
“My plan was to go into the military and be a Marine police officer, but at the time they had a height restriction and I didn’t make it. The limit was 5’4 and I’m 5’2,” Captain Bird said.
After three years as a training officer in the military, she followed her retired father to Hawaii Island, where she spent six months training at the police academy in Hilo in 1998.
“I have a sister that’s in the department too. She’s a detective in our area’s juvenile aid section,” Captain Bird said. “I could possibly have been her mentor.”
For others considering one day joining the police force, Captain Bird has some words of wisdom.
“They would have to have the desire to help people and a passion for law enforcement in general,” she said. “The rewards are when you’re able to see a victim or someone you’ve arrested come out of the dark, so to speak, and make achievements for themselves, such as overcoming a drug addiction or escaping a negative home life. For me that’s gratification.”