A group of Hawaii women lawmakers on Wednesday blasted Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha for canceling a meeting with them about domestic violence.

“We sincerely hope this is not a sign of the lack of importance the department places on the issue of domestic violence,” Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said in a statement. 

The Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus, which includes 23 state lawmakers and three Honolulu City Council members, is perplexed by the chief’s decision not to meet with them Thursday as planned, she said.

Laura Thielen Sat hear PF

Hawaii state Sen. Laura Thielen speaks during a March hearing at the Capitol. Thielen and 25 other women lawmakers want answers from HPD on domestic violence.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

“We hoped to work cooperatively with the police to strengthen efforts to end domestic violence and keep victims safe,” Kim said. “We wanted to discuss concerns and questions about HPD’s internal policies and procedures regarding domestic violence cases, especially when one of their own officers is a suspect that has been brought to us by victims’ service providers.”

HPD is investigating a Sept. 8 incident at a Waipahu restaurant involving Sgt. Darren Cachola and his girlfriend. 

He was placed on administrative leave last week and stripped of his badge and gun after a surveillance video surfaced appearing to show him punching her repeatedly. A separate video appears to show her hitting him beforehand outside the restaurant. 

Sen. Laura Thielen contacted HPD last week to schedule a private meeting with the chief, which was set for Thursday afternoon, according to HPD spokeswoman Teresa Bell.

“We postponed the meeting with Senator Thielen because those who were notified included several members of the Women’s Caucus … and we want to address everyone at the same time.” — HPD spokeswoman Teresa Bell

But on Tuesday, Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Public Safety Committee, notified HPD that there would be an informational hearing on domestic violence Sept. 30 at the Capitol, Bell said. 

“We postponed the meeting with Senator Thielen because those who were notified included several members of the Women’s Caucus, including Senator Thielen, and we want to address everyone at the same time,” Bell said. 

 When requesting the appointment with the chief, Bell said Thielen did not mention that other members of the Women’s Caucus would be at the meeting. She added that HPD has offered to meet with Thielen and the Women’s Caucus after the informational hearing.

However, the Women’s Caucus said in its news release that one of their members was told the meeting was canceled because the internal investigation was not yet completed.

“We made it clear that the Women’s Caucus understands that personnel investigations are confidential and that we have no intention of interfering in that matter,” Thielen said. “We told Chief Kealoha’s office that our concern and our meeting is to be focused on the broader HPD policies and response to domestic violence incidents.”

On Tuesday, the Hawaii State Democratic Women’s Caucus issued a statement in support of the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus’ calling for an investigation and public report on the incident involving Cachola. 

Calling on the chief to increase domestic violence training at the department, the Democratic Women’s Caucus said it wants to get away from the “why don’t you just leave him” culture that puts the responsibility on the victim instead of the perpetrator. 

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Friday called for “extreme action” if Cachola indeed assaulted his girlfriend, who maintains that they were just playing around.

Cachola has not been charged with a crime at this point. HPD is continuing to work with the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office on the case. 

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