Honolulu Police, The Keith Kaneshiro Case, Year of Courtrooms

The recent settlement of $12.5 million to Jonaven Perkins-Sinapati involving the Honolulu Police Department highlights a disturbing picture of our local law enforcement officers.

An additional $4.5 million settlement was agreed to by the county for other victims of the Makaha crash including a teenager who was paralyzed.

Honolulu Police officers allegedly caused a vehicle to crash as they were pursuing it without flashing lights or a siren through Makaha.

Instead of stopping to help, the police officers allegedly drove away and only returned after a 911 call was made.

Upon arriving at the scene of the accident, the officers allegedly acted as if they were unaware of what had happened. Witnesses have stated the police were involved in the crash and drove away.

The driver of the vehicle that crashed suffered serious brain trauma and will need assisted living for the rest of his life.

Three police officers have been fired, and criminal cases against these individuals will begin this summer.

This sounds like the makings of an incredible story if true.

The majority of our law enforcement officers are competent, law-abiding professionals who serve us well every day of the week. They bravely risk their lives to protect our neighborhoods and communities.

Unfortunately, incidents like this cast a dark shadow upon the police department. 

Another unflattering incident occurred in Honolulu involving a recent police brutality case where a 25-year-old man and his 49-year-old father were allegedly assaulted by police officers who may have been involved in an island-wide chase of a wanted suspect.

The men claim they were innocent non-threatening bystanders who were seriously and wrongfully beaten and injured. The suspect in the island-wide car chase was shot and killed by the police that day.

The island-wide chase of Sidney Tafokitau resulting in his shooting death also highlighted the issues of high-speed chases, manhunts, and the need to notify the public.

Police Chief Joe Logan took some heat and criticism for not informing the public about the dangerous chase and driving conditions which could have led to serious injury or death to the general public.

I, for one, believe high-speed chases should not occur once a pursued vehicle runs a red light.

A car running red lights is a death machine that could easily kill pedestrians, cyclists, and people in vehicles. Anyone on the roads at the time would be at risk. 

The camera system controlled by the government to monitor traffic congestion and roadways could be used to follow or capture escaping vehicles.

Why put people at risk with a high-speed chase involving weaving in and out of traffic, passing vehicles dangerously, and disregarding traffic lights?

Following the recent manhunt and shooting, I can report Chief Logan did signal he isn’t against public notification and will look at ways to alert the public in the future.

It’s a positive response that will benefit the public next time a similar incident occurs.

These two alleged incidents are not indicative of the police department as a whole, but they do show a degree of behavior that we do not want in the Honolulu Police Department.

Resources must be available to support officers and help them deal with all aspects of their jobs. Criminal acts followed by cover-ups are abhorrent and have no place in law enforcement.

A third case about an officer-involved manslaughter incident was recently publicized by Chief Logan this past March.

Thomas Matias of Honolulu was found dead in his apartment after a tussle with officers who had arrested him and booked him for unauthorized control of a stolen propelled vehicle (moped).

Force had been used to arrest Matias, and before his death, Matias stated he was assaulted by officers. Following the initial interaction with police, it was reported Matias went to the hospital but refused treatment. 

Supervision, training, mentoring, and counseling are obvious areas that should be a constant for our police officers.

Adequate resources must be available to support our police. Their keen mental and physical good health are paramount in their dangerous and stressful jobs.

But those officers who choose to break the law must be held accountable and know the public demands and expects better.

Police carry badges and guns which can lead to life-and-death decisions. Their real and perceived power and authority must never be abused.

The Kealoha scandal devastated the reputation of the Honolulu Police Department.

Current Chief Logan must now rebuild the department and deal with lingering issues and concerns.

I’m happy to see the case against former City prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, CEO Dennis Mitsunaga, and others is underway. It’s been a long wait, but hopefully, the truth will finally be determined by a jury.

Campaign contributions, and allegations of theft, harassment, revenge, and bribery create a story many residents will be watching. 

Allegations of government corruption do garner attention, and the actions of the rich and powerful often generate interest and have appeal.

Expect much courtroom drama this year as it looks like a banner year for political and government-related court cases.

The Donald Trump criminal trial based on payments to a porn star to keep her silent is about to begin and will certainly have the world’s attention.

After this trial, expect more from Trump as he runs for president and bounces from courtroom to courtroom.

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WILL ESPERO retired from the Hawaii legislature after serving 19 years in the state House of Representatives and state Senate. He is currently a novelist, poet, and supporter of the arts. Lingering Thoughts provides a glimpse of his perspective on current events and issues. 

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