The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said in a federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday that a Honolulu police officer violated a woman’s constitutional rights when he responded to a dispute she was having with the officer’s business partner and allegedly took actions that benefitted his friend.
The plaintiff, Robin Hall, alleges that her boss forcibly tried to enter her home in June 2019, and when she called 911, her boss’s business partner, Officer Christopher Koanui, responded.
Her complaint states that Koanui wouldn’t allow Hall to make a police report. Instead, he allegedly wrote a report stating that Hall had stolen a company cellphone and threatened to arrest her “if she persisted in trying to report his business partner’s crimes to police,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit states that HPD violated Hall’s rights and seeks to force the Honolulu Police Department to take action to prevent conflicts of interest, the ACLU said.
“Why isn’t someone admitting this situation was improper and then changing the way HPD operates?” Hall said in a statement released by the ACLU.
“HPD should be required to implement police training on preventing and managing conflicts of interest, as well as formulating a policy on disciplinary action for violations. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else.”
Hall is suing the City and County of Honolulu, Officer Koanui, Sgt. Debra Maioho-Pohina, other unnamed officers and Hall’s former boss, Leonard Letoto.
In an interview last month, Letoto called Hall’s allegations “absolutely ridiculous.” In his telling, he and Hall had agreed that she would no longer work for his dog training company, so he went to Hall’s home to retrieve her company phone and deliver her final check.
He said Hall demanded to be paid in cash and refused to return the company phone, so he put his foot in her door to prevent him from closing it. Letoto said he did not try to enter the home or assault Hall, as the lawsuit alleges.
A spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit is the ACLU’s second attempt to get HPD to institute a policy prohibiting conflicts of interest.
The civil rights organization requested a policy change last year when it sued Kirk Uemura, an officer who arrested the 15-year-old rival of his son in 2018. The case settled this year for $150,000 with no policy change.
However, HPD Acting Chief Rade Vanic said at a Honolulu Police Commission meeting last week that the department is drafting a conflict of interest policy, as well as changes to the Standards of Conduct.
He said the Professional Standards Office will draft proposed changes, which will be considered by the Administrative Review Board, a group of high-level HPD officials. The police union will also weigh in, he said.
The chief has the ultimate say on policy decisions.
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