Officer misconduct cases increase
There were six cases of officer misconduct serious enough for termination this year, a big jump over last year, when there was only one such incident, according to an annual report submitted Friday to the Hawaii County Police Commission.
The report, required by state law to be submitted to the Legislature, summarizes the facts, nature of the misconduct and disciplinary action taken. The report does not name the officers disciplined.
In all, the police department’s 2013 misconduct report lists 35 infractions, up from 25 last year, but down from 43 in 2011. There were 35 in 2010, 16 in 2009 and 14 in 2008.
“It fluctuates year to year,” said Police Chief Harry Kubojiri.
The names of terminated officers are kept confidential until their appeals process is completed. Officers were terminated for not being impartial in an investigation, using position for personal gain, bringing disrepute to the police department, giving a false statement, violating traffic regulations and failing to initiate a criminal complaint.
Kubojiri said the law requires the police department to submit the report at least 20 days before the Legislature goes into its regular session, which is Jan. 15 next year. His preference would be to create a report based on the whole year, he said.
“It’s not reflective of the entire year,” he said.
In addition to submissions to the Legislature and the police commission, the reports are posted on the police department’s website at hawaiipolice.com/about-us/annual-misconduct-report.
In response to questions from Commissioner John Bertsch, Kubojiri said the numbers reflect cases, not individual officers, who might have been cited for several offenses. Officials from the police Office of Professional Standards could not be reached by press-time Friday for clarification on how many officers were terminated.
There were 19 officer suspensions, compared to 24 suspensions last year. Disciplinary suspensions in 2014 ranged from one day to 90 days for offenses including failure to follow vehicle pursuit policy, conducting an investigation based on personal beliefs, being rude to the public, giving a false statement and bringing disrepute to the department.
It’s not known how many suspensions involved the same person, as names of disciplined officers who are not fired are not subject to release under the state’s open records laws. But officers aren’t usually suspended unless they fail to change their behavior after counseling on the first offense and then a written warning on the second, according to department policy.
Police misconduct issues come before the Police Commission only if they’re related to complaints from the public about police treatment.
“They’re handled internally through the department,” Commission Chairman Leroy Victorine, a former police officer himself, recently said of police disciplinary actions in general.
Police commissioners are unpaid volunteers — one from each council district — appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the County Council to four-year terms. Commissioners may review the department’s operations and have the sole authority to appoint or dismiss the chief.
The commission was also scheduled to meet in executive session at the end of the meeting Friday to work on the chief’s annual performance review.