Friday, September 19, 2014


Scrutiny of Honolulu police handling of Cachola incident could lead to needed reforms

by Larry Geller

One must seize the moment. The time to scrutinize police violence, including domestic violence, is now. The place for us to start is right here in Honolulu.

Perhaps the national focus on domestic violence triggered by NFL mishandling of the Ray Rice incident, combined with recent memory of police excesses in Ferguson, will lead to greater focus on the deeper implications of the current incident at Kuni’s Japanese Restaurant involving police Sgt. Darren Cachola.

Yes, the actions of this police officer are central to the issue, but police treatment of the incident is now front and center as well.

Publicly available video plays a critical role in each of these domestic violence incidents, and without it, the alleged perpetrators would likely never face the music. If there is an upside to pervasive surveillance, it is that sometimes it can serve a valid social purpose.

When we watch a video appearing to show a woman struck until she falls unconscious in an elevator, or that appears to show an HPD officer repeatedly striking and pursuing a woman in a restaurant, it’s tough to deny that something questionable has taken place. These videos cry out for investigation, and yes, where appropriate, arrests.

Given the video evidence, why has HPD not yet arrested the alleged perpetrator? Why was he not arrested immediately?

Hawaii law allows police to arrest someone if they have cause to believe domestic violence occurred. The law does not require the police witness the violence. The law does not require visible injuries on the victim. The law does not require a statement from the victim. In fact, anyone trained in domestic violence knows that victims will frequently refuse to accuse their abuser out of fear of retaliation.

At least two witnesses were on the scene, shown in the video coming to the woman’s rescue. However, even if the officers disregarded their statements and believed that this was a mutual fight, public fighting is still against the law –it’s a petty misdemeanor crime.

Failure to take any action against this officer was not justified.

[, Public Trust is the Basis for Granting Police Enforcement Powers – What Do You Do When Trust is broken?, 9/11/2014]

Echos of Clyde Arakawa case—special treatment given to fellow HPD officers

In the current Cachola incident there is a question of why responding officers did not file a report. Ian Lind questions police training as part of his article reviewing why victims often stand up for their attackers.

Was Cachola given special treatment because he is an HPD officer? It would not be the first time officers have taken care of their own.

Back in 2000, HPD officers arriving at the scene of a fatal accident afforded fellow officer Clyde Arakawa special treatment.

Police initially insisted that the investigation was handled the same as any other case, but [Honolulu Police Chief Lee] Donohue later acknowledged that Arakawa received special "courtesies" not given to other suspects in fatal crashes. Donohue promised to take disciplinary action if any was warranted.

After the 11:15 p.m. collision, the police union notified a lawyer, who appeared at the crash scene, and Arakawa was allowed to roam freely without being handcuffed or under supervision.

Donohue had said that the courtesies would not jeopardize the criminal investigation.

Arakawa was later charged with manslaughter. He is accused of causing the death by driving drunk and running a red light.

[Honolulu Advertiser, HPD disciplines dozen in Arakawa crash case, 1/26/2002]


Back in 2000, [HPD Lieutenant Colin] Wong received a six-month demotion after he was caught on camera putting his arm around fellow police officer Clyde Arakawa soon after Arakawa had been involved in a fatal motor vehicle collision on the Pali Highway. Arakawa, who was drunk at the time of the crash, was later convicted of manslaughter in the death of 19-year-old Dana Ambrose.

[Star-Advertiser, HPD lieutenant arrested for alleged DUI, 3/30/2013]

Although at least a dozen officers were reported disciplined in the Arakawa case, details were withheld from the public. From the first snip above:

Donohue declined to answer questions about the officers, citing a collective-bargaining agreement with SHOPO…

Refusing to meet with legislators further damages public trust

The latest news indicates that the Hawaii State Women’s Legislative Caucus has been denied a meeting with our police chief (see: Civil Beat, Hawaii Women Lawmakers Slam Police Chief for Canceling Domestic Violence Meeting, 9/17/2014).

I wonder if he knows what that denial could lead to.

As Senator Thielen wrote on her blog, public trust is the basis for granting police enforcement powers. Trust has clearly been damaged by declining to meet with state and city legislators.

Likely, that will have consequences. And it should.

Just as the Legislature this past session took away HPD’s immunity from prosecution if they have sex with prostitutes, new laws may be needed to provide transparency, public accountability, and to improve training in handling domestic violence incidents.



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