Honolulu police officer Ryan Borges was arrested in 1993 after he pulled a gun on his then-wife during an argument.

That incident and its recent publicity is ultimately what kept Borges, now a major, from becoming an assistant chief within the Honolulu Police Department.

But police reports released to Civil Beat under a public records request show it wasn’t the first time police were called to investigate an accusation of domestic abuse involving Ryan Borges.

Before HPD promotions ceremony held at McCoy Pavillion, Ala Moana Beach Park.
The Honolulu Police Department has struggled to confront domestic violence in its own ranks. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In 1989, Borges was investigated by his colleagues for abuse of a family member after a woman who was living with him was admitted to Castle Medical Center in Kailua with bruised ribs and bleeding in her inner ear cavity.

The incident, however, was not revealed by HPD Chief Louis Kealoha or other police officials as part of the public discussion over whether Borges was an appropriate choice for a promotion to one of the highest ranking positions at HPD, given his 1993 arrest and conviction for domestic violence.

Borges himself did not reference the case when he asked friends and colleagues to write him letters of support for what he deemed to be a “spiritual attack” against him.

Kealoha also did not acknowledge the 1989 case when he defended his decision to promote Borges in a statement released to the press, which suggested the 1993 assault on his wife was Borges’ only domestic violence incident.

“I appreciate that Major Borges has been honest and open about his past,” Kealoha said in the statement. “We’ve all made mistakes in our lives, but what’s important is what we do afterwards. We need to learn from our mistakes, and we need to move on and become better people. In Major Borges’ case, I believe he has done that.”

Borges eventually withdrew his name from consideration for the assistant chief position but only after lawmakers and women’s advocates had raised questions. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell also met with Kealoha and expressed his strong concern over domestic violence and how it was being handled. The next day, the chief announced Borges had turned down the promotion.

Both Borges and Kealoha declined to comment Friday through an HPD spokeswoman. The department also would not provide any other officials to discuss Borges’ 1989 abuse of a family member investigation.

Marci Lopes, who is the executive director of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, had a one word reaction when told about the 1989 incident — “Wow.”

“This just shows that there was a pattern,” Lopes said. “The biggest question for us is: Did he have consequences? Did he go to battery prevention? Did he get treatment? And we don’t know if he ever did. It’s not something you can just turn off one day.”

First Signs of Trouble

The police report from the 1989 incident describes a violent encounter between Borges and a woman whose name was redacted from the documents. The woman is presumably Borges’ wife based on other facts contained in the 12-page report.

According to the records, Borges and the woman got into an argument at 7:30 a.m. on April 6, 1989. The woman told hospital staff that Borges then repeatedly punched her in the head and ribs before he took her to the hospital.

By the time police arrived at the hospital, Borges had already left. The report says attempts to locate him or his vehicle in the area were unsuccessful, and that the case would be turned over to HPD’s internal affairs division for investigation.

The promotion of HPD Maj. Ryan Borges has renewed community debate about domestic abuse.
The promotion of HPD Maj. Ryan Borges has renewed community debate about domestic abuse. KITV.com

But the case quickly evaporated. The woman told an internal affairs detective on April 12, 1989 that she never wanted the police to get involved. She was told that the police were called because her injuries were unexplained.

“She stated that she never intended to file a complaint, and only spoke to the police at the hospital because they asked her questions,” the detective’s report states. “If she had known that they were going to file a report, she would have lied to them.”

Borges was brought in for an interview and read his rights. He declined to give a statement. There’s no record that criminal charges were pursued.

Borges was eventually convicted of terroristic threatening for the 1993 case in which he pointed a gun at his wife. The police report from that incident states that Borges’ wife again did not want to pursue charges, only that she wanted him to receive counseling for his drinking.

Borges has said that his police powers were stripped for five years after the incident in January 1993. However, he was still promoted to sergeant in 1995 and lieutenant in 2001.

He applied for and received a pardon in 2001 from then-Gov. Ben Cayetano. Since then, at least two other people have sought temporary restraining orders against Borges for threats and harassment.

Seeking Real Reform

Lopes and others had been working with HPD on domestic violence matters ever since surveillance video surfaced in September 2014 of Sgt. Darren Cachola taking multiple, full-bodied swings at a girlfriend at a Waipahu restaurant.

Cachola wasn’t arrested that night even though officers had responded to the scene. He also was never charged with a crime, even though Kealoha was under increasing pressure to address domestic violence within the HPD ranks.

Lopes said she had hoped the Cachola case would have been a catalyst for change at the department. But when Kealoha picked Borges to be one of his assistant chiefs it raised more questions about whether HPD was ready to take domestic violence seriously.

The attempt to promote Borges has added another layer of complexity to the issue of domestic abuse and how seriously HPD takes it, especially given Kealoha’s defiant stance that Borges was the right person for the job. The department had even posted support letters for Borges on its official Facebook page.

“We’re trying to have a good working relationship with them so we try to tread lightly,” Lopes said. “We want to hold them accountable, but we need to work with them. Otherwise they’ll shut us out like they have in the past.”

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