Honolulu Police Department officials announced Tuesday they will launch an internal affairs investigation into Ryan Borges regarding whether he violated department standards by seeking outside support in the form of letters backing his promotion to the position of assistant chief.
The promotion of Borges had proven controversial. He was convicted more than 20 years ago of terroristic threatening in a domestic abuse case that involved a handgun. Since then, at least two other people have sought temporary restraining orders against him for harassment and threats.
Several state lawmakers and domestic violence awareness advocates said they were appalled that Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha would appoint Borges given his troubling past.
But the storyline took a strange twist over the weekend as the department continued to defend its decision to promote Borges. On Friday, the department posted 16 letters to its official Facebook page that came from individuals who supported Borges’ promotion to assistant police chief.
Many of the letters came from influential members of the community, including former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin, Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves and Native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte.
They appear to have been solicited by Borges, which could be a violation of departmental protocol.
According to HPD’s standards of conduct, officers and civilian employees are not allowed to “seek the influence or intervention of any organization or persons outside the department for purposes of personal preferment, advantage, or transfer.”
“The most important thing to me is that Jesus shed his Blood for sinners just like me. I am forgiven! Also, my family forgives me!” — HPD Maj. Ryan Borges
On Tuesday, Deputy Police Chief Marie McCauley said HPD will ask its internal affairs division, which is known as the Professional Standards Office, to investigate the matter. She noted, though, that it didn’t appear any rule was broken.
“At this time it appears that the letter from Major Borges was sent out after the decision to promote him had been made,” McCauley said in a written statement. “If that is the case, the departmental standard that prohibits personal preferment would not apply. However, to ensure that the standard and other departmental procedures were followed, the Professional Standards Office has opened an inquiry into the letter and its distribution.”
After Borges’ promotion was announced Feb. 3, he sent a letter to an undisclosed number of individuals asking them to support the chief’s decision. Borges said he was under “spiritual attack,” and in particular was being victimized by state Sen. Will Espero, who has been one of the loudest advocates at the Legislature for police reform.
“This individual apparently has a personal agenda and is using the Honolulu Police Department as a vehicle to pursue his selfish ambitions,” Borges wrote. “Espero has recently stated via the news media that I should not be promoted due to an incident that occurred over 23 years ago.”
Borges then went on to detail how he was arrested for terroristic threatening of his wife and had his police powers stripped for five years as the courts processed the case. He also referenced his gubernatorial pardon that was issued in 2001 by then-Gov. Ben Cayetano.
The letter takes on religious overtones in which Borges calls himself a sinner who has since repented. He describes those criticizing his promotion as “the enemy” who is trying to slander his reputation.
“I admit that I did a terrible thing back in 1993,” Borges said. “The price of sin is death. I did not die, (but) I paid a severe price for my indiscretions. The most important thing to me is that Jesus shed his Blood for sinners just like me. I am forgiven! Also, my family forgives me! Time to move forward.”
Borges then requested what he described as a “tremendous favor.” He wanted anyone who supported him to send a character reference letter to Kealoha before 8 a.m. Feb. 8. He even included Kealoha’s email address.
Espero said Tuesday he was pleased HPD has launched an investigation into Borges’ letter, but that he still wants his promotion withdrawn. The senator believes Borges’ history of domestic violence should have been enough to disqualify him from being assistant police chief.
Esperos said Borges’ letter is just further proof that he shouldn’t get the job.
“There are some things that he wrote down that, in my opinion, proves he is not worthy of the promotion that he has received,” Espero said. “He refers to me as the enemy, and the enemy is usually someone you want to stop, injure, destroy or kill. His use of the word shows that he has no tolerance for a verbal opinion that is against him. That shows to me very, very poor judgment and bad decision-making.”
“He refers to me as the enemy, and the enemy is usually someone you want to stop, injure, destroy or kill.” — State Sen. Will Espero
Espero added that he found HPD’s decision to post the letters of support for Borges to its official Facebook page troubling. He said it was a “desperate attempt” to prove that the department had made the right decision, and was simply the act of a misguided “PR machine.”
HPD Spokeswoman Michelle Yu said that the decision to post the support letters for Borges online was an administrative decision. She also confirmed that Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell met with Kealoha to discuss Borges’ promotion.
Caldwell’s spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke issued a statement about the meeting late Tuesday:
“Mayor Caldwell firmly believes that there is no place for domestic violence in our community and in the police force,” Broder Van Dyke said. “He met with the police chief today to discuss the decision to promote Major Borges, expressing his strong concerns and requesting additional information about past incidents.”
Borges’ promotion is scheduled to take effect Feb. 28.
Read the support letters for Borges’ promotion here: