Fewer officers with the Honolulu Police Department were suspended or discharged last year than in 2018, according to an annual summary of disciplinary action provided by the department to the Legislature on Monday.
A total of 13 officers were disciplined by the department in 2019, down from 21 the year prior. Of those, nine were suspended, while two were fired. Another two who the department recommended be suspended for one day are awaiting the start of the police union’s arbitration process, which typically results in reduced punishments.
One officer who was discharged allegedly set up the burglary of his own home and burnt his own vehicle to collect a fraudulent insurance payment. The state Office of the Attorney General handled the case but HPD did not say if the officer faced criminal charges.
The other officer discharged last year got in trouble in connection with an incident in which officers forced a suspect to lick a urinal in 2018. The brief summary says the officer failed to report the incident but it does not say if the officer discharged was one of the two who have been publicly identified as being at the center of the case.
Those were some of the sparse details offered in the annual reports on police disciplinary actions that each county police department sends to the Legislature. Reports are due Jan. 31 of each year, but so far it appears only HPD and Hawaii County Police have filed the reports.
While the annual police disciplinary reports offer brief summaries of misconduct by officers they don’t include the officers names or many other details of serious misconduct.
In the urinal licking case, four officers were initially under investigation after they were reported to commanders by another officer. The case was later turned over to the FBI.
Two of the officers, John Rabago and Reginald Ramones, pleaded guilty in Circuit Court last year. Ramones pleaded guilty for failing to report the incident, and could face up to three years in prison.
Rabago, the officer accused of forcing the man to lick the urinal, pleaded guilty in December and could face up to 10 years in prison.
One HPD officer was suspended for 60 days last year after reporting in sick multiple times to go to an athletic event off-island.
The two officers with cases pending were recommended for one day suspensions. One officer is accused of making sexual comments to a coworker. The other restrained a family member, stopping them from leaving a residence.
That case was sent to the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office for abuse of a family member.
HPD also sent a third-degree assault case to the prosecutor’s office. In that case, an officer shoved a person against a door, and failed to make a report of the incident. The officer was suspended for one day.
Other instances of one to three day suspensions involve individual cases of officers accused of going to an athletic event during work hours, showing their subordinates “material of a sexual nature,” causing multiple vehicle collisions, fleeing the scene of a vehicle collision and failing to properly submit evidence.
Five cases from 2018 that were included on the 2019 report ended with officers receiving reduced disciplinary action after going through a union grievance and arbitration process. Four of those had suspensions that stretched over multiple days.
One officer who had been slated to be fired got his punishment reduced to a six-month suspension. The summary does not indicate why or give any other details about the case. That officer drove drunk while on duty, was involved in a motor vehicle collision, then fled the scene of that collision.
4 Big Island Cops Discharged
Hawaii County Police saw seven officers in 2019 disciplined in 19 instances. Four of those officers were discharged, while the case of another officer who’s recommended to be discharged is pending a union grievance process.
In that case, the officer assaulted a member of the public.
One officer who was discharged made unwanted contact with an underaged female. The same officer also used a personal vehicle to transport juvenile females while on duty, according to the report.
A second officer was let go but the summary does not make it clear why. The report only states that his “repeated misconduct in public brought disrepute to himself and the department.”
Another officer was also discharged under mysterious circumstances. This officer hampered an investigation, failed to report discharging his firearm and used a firearm not issued by the department while on duty.
The fourth officer was fired for abusing his spouse while off duty.
That case appears to involve Daniel Ulrich, who pleaded guilty last year to third-degree assault. Ulrich was initially facing two felony charges and another misdemeanor for strangling his wife during a domestic argument.
A bill last year would have required the county police departments to identify officers who were suspended or discharged, however it died late last legislative session. Legislative leaders said they intended to bring the bill back this year for further consideration but it’s unclear whether that is still going to happen.
Read the disciplinary reports from HPD and Hawaii County Police below.
Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell