Former Honolulu police officer Vincent Morre was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison Friday for civil rights violations after attacking two men in a Hopaka Street game room last September.
The attack, which was caught on surveillance video inside the business, made headlines in Hawaii for its brazenness and added to a growing discussion over the need for more police oversight in Hawaii.
On Friday, Vanita Gupta, the head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, declared the sentencing a victory for those across the country who have suffered brutality at the hands of the police.
“When this defendant violated the trust of the people he was sworn to serve, the Department of Justice stood ready to enforce the law and protect the civil rights of all Americans,” Gupta said in a written statement.
According to prosecutors, Morre was searching for a fugitive when he attacked the two men in the game room unprovoked. Morre, a 10-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department, was seen punching and kicking the two men. He also threw a metal stool at one of them, striking him in the head.
Morre eventually pleaded guilty to the federal civil rights violations, telling the judge, “I lost my temper.”
Two other officers were in the room at the time and stood by as the attack went down. Nelson Tamayori and Joe Becera, who was a reserve at the time of the attack, are no longer with the department.
Both men have already pleaded guilty to federal charges for trying to cover up the assault. Tamayori and Becera are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 28.
HPD Deputy Chief Cary Okimoto issued a written statement late Friday in response to Morre’s sentencing.
“This is a painful reminder that no matter who you are or what your profession is, there are consequences when you step outside of the law,” Okimoto said. “Police work is demanding and stressful, but we must never forget that we took an oath to serve and protect all. Now because of a single act, three officers have lost their careers and many lives are changed forever.”
Meanwhile, HPD Chief Louis Kealoha is currently under investigation by the FBI and Honolulu Ethics Commission for allegedly framing his prosecutor wife’s uncle for stealing their mailbox.
And state Sen. Will Espero is now calling for a commission working on updating the city charter to ask voters to give the Honolulu Police Commission more authority to oversee officer misconduct.
Espero also wants to give the mayor the power to fire the police chief with majority approval of the Police Commission. Currently, the commission is the only agency that can hire or fire the chief.
“These two charter amendments will strengthen civilian oversight of our police department,” Espero said in a written statement. “If passed, they will also help to rebuild public trust and confidence in the police department, which has been plagued by an increasing number of police-involved crimes and negative stories over the past few years.”
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