How do police handle abuse cases when the suspect is one of their own?
Police chief Louis Kealoha reiterated Wednesday that there is specific protocol for when an officer is a suspect in any crime.
But is that protocol always followed and what are the consequences when it’s not?
A veteran Honolulu police sergeant was caught on tape punching a woman at a Waipahu bar and restaurant, where she worked.
A friend told KHON2 that the woman was his ex-girlfriend and that, when officers responded, they said “What’s up, Sarge?”
“So why would you want to make a report at this point?” the friend said. “He’s there, amongst friends. Who is going to make a report?”
Now those responding officers are under investigation, along with the suspected abuser.
“If the officer goes to the scene, if they see a police officer that’s involved, what they do is they notify the supervisor. The supervisor notifies the PSO, our Professional Standards Office,” Kealoha explained.
KHON2 examined dozens of Honolulu police misconduct cases over the past two years to find out how common it is for an officer to be disciplined for domestic violence.
Out of more than 70 discipline cases, we found a handful related to domestic violence. Two got 20-day suspensions and one got a one-day suspension.
“There would be the part where he’d say, ‘See? That’s all I got.’ So what now?” said Cristina Arias, Domestic Violence Action Center.
Whether from the hand of an officer or not, many victims of violence tell the Domestic Violence Action Center their abusers want them to keep quiet.
KHON2 spoke to the woman in the video, who said she and the officer were “just playing around” and that she took swings at him too.
Domestic violence prevention experts see it differently. “She tried to fight and that is probably her adrenaline kicking in, wanting to survive, but at the end of the day, she could have been killed,” Arias said. “She’s thinking there is no escape. She’s thinking there’s no way out. ‘He’ll find me, he’ll kill me.'”
Experts say that fear isn’t always relieved when fellow officers show up to the scene.
When it comes to police response to police abuse, Arias says she often hears that “the victims are persuaded by the responding officer to not report or possibly even not to sign the complaint.”
“‘He’s a good person. He’s a good officer. He’s just under maybe a lot of stress. Our jobs are hard and it’s difficult for us to contain ourselves when we get home, therefore we’ll talk to him.’ The next day, the officer who abused continues his life as if nothing happened,” Arias said.
The Domestic Violence Action Center said HPD asked them to help with feedback and guidance to develop policies and procedures for when another officer is the suspected abuser.