Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck will be suspended without pay for five days later this month after an investigation by the county Human Resources Department found he violated a discrimination policy twice when he mocked people of Asian descent in conversation with other officers.
The Kauai Police Commission also took issue with the chief for discriminatory language and gestures and ordered him to complete Equal Employment Opportunity and Cultural Sensitivity Training, county officials announced on Friday.
Raybuck, who apologized for his behavior last month in a YouTube video, said in a prepared statement that he values and appreciates the diversity on the police force and in the Kauai community.
“I accept responsibility for my comments and will continue to use this experience to expand my cultural awareness and increase my knowledge and understanding of different cultures,” said Raybuck, who moved to Kauai from Las Vegas in April 2019 to assume the role of the island’s top cop, quickly earning high marks from his officers and among the public.
“I am deeply humbled by the support I have received and appreciate the grace I have been given,” he said in the statement. “Moving forward I am even more committed to serving this great community and doing the work necessary to maintain the confidence of the police commission and the employees of the Kauai Police Department.”
Raybuck has declined several requests to discuss the controversy with Civil Beat.
Kauai County officials announced the disciplinary action against Raybuck on Friday following a month in which the public was kept in the dark about whether and how the chief was disciplined after the results of the investigation into his behavior made headlines.
The investigation was triggered by a discrimination complaint made last September by a police officer who recorded the chief mocking people of Asian descent by bowing his head, squinting his eyes and mimicking someone with a Japanese accent.
In another incident, Raybuck described the hair style of a person of Asian descent as something out of a “Kung Fu movie,” according to documents obtained by The Garden Island newspaper.
The incidents allegedly occurred on Nov. 13, 2019 and July 29, 2020. Recordings of the chief’s comments were submitted as evidence.
The Human Resources investigation did not, however, substantiate allegations made by the complainant that Raybuck passed over a police officer for a promotion based on his bias against the officer’s race. Investigators found that the promotion process was fair and objective, according to the county press release.
The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers called on Raybuck to resign immediately last month when the scandal went public. But local leadership, including Mayor Derek Kawakami, have voiced support for the chief, citing his good record of performance.
Although police commissioners have given Raybuck mostly glowing ratings for his performance since he assumed the role of police chief, Raybuck’s most recent job review for the last nine months of 2020 indicate that he had begun to raise concerns for some police commissioners.
County officials, however, redacted most of these presumably negative comments in a copy of the performance evaluation provided to Civil Beat.
Despite the redactions, the review of Raybuck’s performance from April through December 2020 marked the first time that the commission found that the chief’s overall performance needed improvement.
Areas of concern raised by commissioners that were not blacked out from the semi-annual review question whether the chief had made efforts to build relationships with his officers and staff, as he has with other county department heads and members of the public.
The evaluation called on Raybuck to improve his communication with senior commanders. It also faulted him for the department’s “unsettled” command structure.
Two of the six commissioners determined that the police chief did not meet expectations for the review period — a first for Raybuck.
Still, the review continued to give Raybuck high marks for introducing an employee wellness mobile app, boosting community engagement, strengthening the patrol division and hiring new officers to fill longstanding vacancies — a chronic problem for the department.
The chief’s early performance reviews praise Raybuck for his avid use of social media to promote the police department and its officers, alert residents to public safety threats and offer people who might not approach the chief through official channels a more casual and comfortable way to voice their feedback about policing issues.
Commissioners commended Raybuck for generating a “newfound sense of respect for KPD” among Kauai residents, noting that complaints from the public and from within the police department noticeably declined under his leadership.
One commissioner wrote that Raybuck is “well on his way to stardom.”
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