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About a dozen Honolulu police officers were disciplined last year — including two who were discharged — for their handling of an investigation into a fellow officer who accidentally shot a woman in the stomach while he was at a bar.
That officer, Anson Kimura, retired from the Honolulu Police Department, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
But a new summary of disciplinary actions provided to the Legislature on Wednesday showed at least two other HPD officers were discharged for not reporting the shooting and lying about it during the course of the investigation. Eight other officers received suspensions ranging from three to 10 days for either failing to properly investigate or supervise the investigation of the off-duty shooting incident.
None of the officers are named in the brief summary that county police agencies are required to file with the Legislature each year. The lack of detail has been the subject of much debate in the last few years, with some lawmakers trying in various ways to force police agencies to reveal much more information about police misconduct. Similar bills are being considered this year.
No names were released in Wednesday’s report, but news coverage of the Kimura case as it played out over the last year and a half tracks with the vague references to an “off-duty shooting incident” and second-degree assault case in which the officer was prosecuted for “recklessly causing serious bodily injury.”
Police agencies have been required to provide the summaries since the late 1990s, and as in previous years, the summaries reflect a wide range of misconduct including numerous instances of serious offenses.
In its 2016 summary, HPD reported that 57 officers were disciplined for 41 incidents. Of those, 18 officers were recommended for discharge, although 12 have appeals that are still pending.
Some of the offenses that resulted in discharge included sexual assault, drug possession, trafficking stolen vehicles and drunken driving.
Suspensions ranged from from a single day relating to a domestic assault on another officer to 20 days for swearing at a motorist and her passengers, and then forcing them to walk home.
County police officers are the only public employees in the state whose misconduct is shielded public scrutiny. Disciplinary records for all other city and state employees are released publicly if they’ve been suspended or fired.
In the mid-1990s, the statewide police union convinced lawmakers that disciplinary actions against police officers should be exempted from disclosure under the public records law, arguing they and their families should not subject to unnecessary shame.
But as more and more incidents of serious misconduct have come to light in recent years, political pressure has mounted to change the law and either eliminate the public records exemption for cops or require more disclosure in various circumstances. A number of bills have been introduced in the Legislature this year to address the situation.
The report to the Legislature also shows that disciplinary actions often involve grievance procedures that result in arbitration, a process that can take months or even years to complete. Those cases provide a glimpse into just how hard it can be to fire a police officer in Hawaii.
For example, the report shows that Sgt. Darren Cachola is still in the process of fighting his termination. Cachola was caught on surveillance video in 2014 attacking his girlfriend inside a restaurant.
The video set off a firestorm of criticism of HPD for its handling of domestic violence. Officers never arrested Cachola despite being called to the scene. They also didn’t file any police reports regarding the incident.
While Cachola was never charged, the police officials recommended he be fired.
Other cases that have been appealed include one in which an officer, who was recommended for discharge, allegedly handcuffed someone, took them to an undisclosed location and threatened them.
The report listed the incident as kidnapping and theft, but also noted that the case was not forwarded to prosecutors.
Another case subject to arbitration proceedings involved an officer who “committed multiple criminal acts of sexual assault against a relative who was a minor.”
Read HPD’s latest legislative report: