A state conservation officer, who once worked for the Honolulu Police Department, was found guilty Wednesday of raping a 16-year-old girl at a beach park on the Big Island in 2016.
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported that state Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officer Ethan Ferguson, 40, was convicted of five counts of sexual assault stemming from the New Year’s Day incident.
According to court records, Ferguson was wearing his DLNR uniform at the time of the assault.
The case highlighted flaws in Hawaii’s ability to track problem police officers. It also raised concerns about how the state goes about hiring employees.
Ferguson is a former HPD officer who had been fired in 2012. Little is known about his termination, however, because HPD destroyed the records and officials there have refused to talk about Ferguson’s discharge.
The only details come from a brief summary contained in an annual police misconduct report that’s given to the Legislature:
The officer transported a juvenile female runaway without a supervisor’s authorization and was untruthful during the investigation. It was also determined that the officer altered another officer’s name and badge number in a police log book and submitted a falsified mileage record.
State officials were aware of Ferguson’s termination. But they also struggled to get more details out of HPD. The department, however, had warned DLNR not to hire Ferguson.
Hawaii is the only state in the country without a statewide standards and training board. It’s also one of only a handful that doesn’t certify or license law enforcement officers, which makes it easier for bad cops to bounce from agency to agency.
State Sen. Will Espero had introduced legislation to address these shortcomings in Hawaii’s law.
He also introduced legislation last year that would create a statewide database to track all law enforcement officers who had been fired or forced to resign as a result of criminal activity, bad behavior or other forms of misconduct.