Honolulu’s top cop is speaking out against the May 25 killing of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose death has prompted massive protests across the country calling for racial justice.

“The death of George Floyd was avoidable and criminal,” Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said during Wednesday’s Honolulu Police Commission meeting.

“The tactics employed by (the Minneapolis police officers) are not used or condoned by our police department,” she added.

Everything about that incident was “disturbing,” Ballard said.

Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who has since been fired and charged with second-degree unintentional murder and manslaughter, pinned Floyd down with his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, while other officers watched as though it was “just another day in the park,” Ballard said.

As police officers, if they see another officer doing something wrong, “you’re obligated to step in,” the chief said.

“We’re not perfect and there’s always room for improvement,” she said.

Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard says George Floyd’s death was “avoidable.” Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

A belated annual performance evaluation for Ballard, which was also discussed at the commission meeting, showed that the police chief was mostly exceeding expectations.

“There’s been exceptional reviews in leadership,” said Shannon Alivado, the commission’s chair, adding that Ballard’s leadership has been “new and out of the box.”

She has done a good job in improving morale of the department and increasing the public’s confidence in the department, according to the 2019 evaluation report, which was released Wednesday afternoon.

Ballard was also “willing to make difficult personnel changes that may be unpopular,” the review said.

In 2017, the police chief inherited the department from Louis Kealoha, who has since been convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and bank fraud in federal court. Four HPD officers were also convicted in the same conspiracy.

Commissioners also noted in the review that Ballard is “encouraged to listen to competing or adverse points of view” and that “she may not be completely there yet” in terms of changing the culture of the department.

Lawsuit Against Police Commission

HPD Sgt. Darren Cachola was arrested and charged with two counts of harassment and one count of abuse of a household member in April 2019. HPD

Meanwhile, Darren Cachola, an HPD sergeant who has repeatedly been in trouble in connection with domestic violence, is suing the commission for denying him legal counsel in a lawsuit filed by his estranged wife.

The commission must approve taxpayer-funded legal counsel for officers who are sued in relation to actions they committed while performing their police duties.

Cachola sought legal representation after his estranged wife filed a civil claim against him, the department and the city in June 2019 alleging that he abused her and that the department helped cover it up.

In May, the commission decided not to grant Cachola legal counsel at the Corporation Counsel’s recommendation.

Bill Harrison, Cachola’s attorney, said in the lawsuit that his client should have been granted legal representation from the city because the very lawsuit alleging his wrongdoing says he is being sued both in his “individual and official capacities.”

Harrison could not be reached for comment.

Eric Seitz, an attorney representing Cachola’s estranged wife who filed the civil suit against him and the police department last year, said he commended the commission for choosing not to grant him legal counsel.

“I think that was a wise and appropriate decision,” he said. “Mr. Cachola has been well documented to be an abusive person.” 

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