Honolulu taxpayers will pay $150,000 to settle a lawsuit in which a Honolulu police officer was accused of wrongfully arresting a 15-year-old who was allegedly being bullied by the officer’s son at school.

Honolulu City Council members are slated to approve the settlement at their meeting on Wednesday.

Jorge Rivera and his mother Jennifer Rivera sued the City and County of Honolulu, Ofc. Kirk Uemura and others in federal court in October with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and attorneys Eric Seitz and Terry Revere.

HPD Seal before Police Chief Susan Ballard press conference.
HPD officer Kirk Uemura shouldn’t have made an arrest in a case that involved his son, the ACLU argued. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

The case highlighted the fact that HPD lacked a policy prohibiting officers from involving themselves in cases in which they have a conflict of interest. The Honolulu Police Commission has since recommended that the department develop such a policy.

ACLU Executive Director Josh Wisch said at a press conference in October, when the lawsuit was announced, that the incident was part of a pattern of misuse of police powers that was condoned by police officials.

HPD did not immediately respond to questions or a request for a copy of the settlement on Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleged that Uemura’s son and Rivera got into a fight over a girl. The next day, Uemura arrested Rivera after following his school bus to a high school in Kailua. He summoned other officers to transport Rivera to the Kailua police station where the boy was detained in handcuffs.

HPD has said officers were disciplined in the case but have declined to provide details of the disciplinary actions.

However, an entry on HPD’s report to the state legislature on police discipline matches the facts in Uemura’s case.

“Was partial and exhibited unprofessional conduct by using his authority as an officer to actively investigate, follow, detain, and question a minor who was accused of harassing the officer’s family member,” the description states.

That officer, who is unnamed in the report, faced a one-day suspension. The report reflects that the officer was trying to reduce that punishment through a grievance process.

Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
 
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
 
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.

About the Author