Glen Murray thought it was strange when he returned to his apartment in November to find his door unlocked.

He always locks up before he leaves. It wasn’t until two weeks later that a neighbor told the 64-year-old Makiki resident that Honolulu police officers had been in his home while he was away.

“I was in shock, almost disbelief,” Murray said Friday in an interview.

Murray then went to management at his apartment building and obtained surveillance footage of his hallway from that day — Nov. 5, 2021. It showed two officers going in and out of his apartment while a third officer stood outside.

“Then I was angry,” Murray said. “I felt my privacy had been invaded. I did not feel good. They didn’t even take off their shoes.”

Glen Murray
Glen Murray, left, testified before City Council on Resolution 22-64 which calls for HPD to give notice of warrantless searches at empty homes. Honolulu City Council/2022

Search For Answers

The incident would lead Murray on a relentless search to find out why officers were in his apartment without his knowledge. His plight prompted action from the City Council.

On Wednesday, the nine-member council unanimously adopted Resolution 22-64, which requests that the Honolulu Police Department provide a notice after a warrantless search is conducted at a home while the owner or occupant is absent.

The resolution does not have the authority of law so HPD will now have to decide whether to amend its policy. The police department said during a council hearing that it will review its policies and procedures. It did not respond to requests for further comments.

“My whole thing is leave the homeowner or property owner some sort of note,” City Councilman Augie Tulba, who introduced the resolution, said in an interview. “Put something to let them know that they were there. It just makes everything a lot more transparent.”

It took Murray, who lives in transitional housing for older adults who had been homeless, months to get answers after discovering that the building manager had let the officers in while he was away.

“I felt my privacy had been invaded. I did not feel good. They didn’t even take off their shoes.” — Glen Murray

He filed a public records request with the police department in December for all reports, call logs and body camera footage related to the search of his apartment.

Ten days later, Murray got a response from the department denying his records request because it said the records he requested didn’t exist.

“They weren’t forthright and they weren’t transparent. What are they trying to cover up? Are they afraid of liability or is there something the officers took? I don’t know,” he said.

Murray then reached out to the state’s Office of Information Practices for assistance accessing the government records and refiled the request with more success.

The Police Files Project Badge

In early February, HPD responded that it had identified call logs from four officers, body camera footage from five officers, and reports submitted by two officers in relation to the search of his home.

 

However, HPD wanted to charge Murray about $250 to retrieve the records, which was more than he could afford.

“HPD puts an exorbitant cost on requests for records,” Murray said. “I don’t have $250 so I’m going to have to pay little by little and get it piecemeal. I don’t think that’s right either.”

Wrong Address

Murray would eventually learn from the department that the officers who entered his home were responding to a mental distress call from the previous tenant, but he still had no details about how the police ended up in his apartment or what exactly they did while inside.

Last month, Murray took his frustrations to Tulba, who promised to address the problem after the pair talked for at least half an hour in the lobby of Honolulu Hale. Tulba cited Murray’s case as a reason for introducing the resolution calling on HPD to change its policy.

State law requires police officers to leave a copy of the warrant they obtained authorizing a property to be searched, but there’s nothing to leave when the search is warrantless, which may occur if a resident gives consent or if the officers believe entry is necessary to prevent harm, the destruction of evidence or the escape of a suspect.

HPD addressed the issue last month when the resolution went before City Council’s public safety committee, which is vice-chaired by Tulba.

Honolulu City Councilman Augie Tulba introduced the resolution after hearing from Glen Murray about his ordeal. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Interim Chief Rade Vanic and Maj. Brandon Nakasato explained Murray’s case and discussed how they could institute a new policy regarding warrantless searches.

Nakasato told the council that the property manager at Murray’s building let officers into Murray’s apartment, but officers left after they realized the woman who made the mental distress call wasn’t there and recorded the entire incident with body cameras.

“From there I guess the whole incident does stir questions for us to review further our policies and procedures, so we will be doing that,” Nakasato said.

Vanic added that searches at empty homes are infrequent and said the department is reviewing its policy regarding how it notifies residents who are absent during warrantless searches.

“I think that is something we are currently in the works of doing and something we can actually do,” Vanic said.

Murray, who testified before the City Council vote on Wednesday, said he’s grateful for the council’s support and hopes the police department will follow through.

“It’s up to HPD if they are going to implement it, so that’ll be the next step,” Murray said. “Also, I’m happy because it gives the officers a layer of protection too so nobody can make a frivolous complaint about them entering their unit and not giving notice. So it works for both of us, the public and the officers.”

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