If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then we, the Civil Beat editorial board, may be insane.
Because once again, a story about the Honolulu Police Department has emerged that reeks of conspiracy, misconduct and a dangerous, even deadly, evasion of responsibility. And once again, we are imploring everyone — from the politically influential police union to the Honolulu prosecuting attorney — to finally recognize and address the troubling culture at HPD.
Because this story is especially appalling.
As Civil Beat’s John Hill reported on Wednesday, a toddler was brutally beaten two years ago at an Ewa Beach daycare center. No one was ever arrested in the case of 17-month-old Peyton Valiente, who suffered serious injuries consistent with assault, seemingly because the daycare was operated by Manuela Ramos, whose husband Mark Ramos is a corporal in the Honolulu Police Department.
Hill’s reporting shows the HPD’s investigation was cursory at best, if not totally negligent.
There were only three adults present at the daycare where Valiente was so horribly mistreated: Ramos and her two teenage children. Yet detectives from HPD’s child and family violence detail didn’t interview these three adults until months after the incident.
To make matters worse, the scene of the assault appears never to have been examined, and the three other children present at the daycare — ages 9, 6 and 3 at the time — were never questioned by detectives.
The investigation — if you can even call it that — “may have been impacted by the fact that this was a police officer’s wife,” state Sen. Will Espero told Hill.
Espero has brought the case to the attention of the Honolulu Police Commission and the Honolulu City Council and says he may discuss it with Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, whose office declined to press charges.
Rep. Matt LoPresti, whose district includes Ewa Beach, where the assault apparently occurred, is also taking action, asking Attorney General Douglas Chin to reopen the case.
We commend those actions, but the fact remains that the mishandling of Valiente’s case is not a singular incident. Time after time, HPD mishandles cases involving its own officers, sending the troubling message that they are above the law.
County police officers, after all, are the only public employees in the state whose misconduct is not fully reported to the public. In a summary of the department’s disciplinary actions routinely provided to the Legislature, names and details are excluded.
In the most recent report, for example, we learned that 10 police officers were disciplined for not properly investigating another officer who accidentally shot a woman in a bar. Two of those officers were fired while eight others received suspensions ranging from three to 10 days.
But we have no idea who these officers are and what they actually did to warrant disciplinary action, a troubling lack of detail considering officers covering up for one another seems to be a pattern at HPD.
Sgt. Darren Cachola, for example, was caught on surveillance video in 2014 violently attacking his girlfriend inside a restaurant. But when officers arrived on the scene, they never arrested Cachola nor did they file a police report regarding the incident.
Civil Beat’s past reporting indicates that HPD’s treatment of domestic violence cases within its ranks is especially inadequate, suggesting that cases like Cachola’s are, unfortunately, not uncommon.
Studies have shown that police officer families may experience domestic violence at two to four times the rate of the general population. But not a single HPD officer, including Cachola, has been fired for domestic violence in the past 15 years, despite some two dozen reports of Honolulu officers being disciplined for such incidents.
Thankfully, some lawmakers are currently pushing to release more information about police misconduct — efforts that should send a strong message to the department that business can no longer continue as usual.
Thank you, Sen. Espero and Rep. LoPresti. We’ll be cheering your efforts on, and we hope, this time, things will be different. Because this time, we have multiple politicians standing up in the name of transparency, and we have details about Valiente — a toddler who was beaten so badly that his brain shifted 1.3 centimeters from its normal center line.
Call us insane, but we think someone should face consequences for that.
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