Women lawmakers respond to police chief’s comments about domestic violence

Shortly after Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha faced the media on Thursday to outline his department’s handling of domestic violence cases in general, and the recent case of alleged abuse involving a police officer in particular, women lawmakers from both the state and the City and County had their turn in front of reporters.

The lawmakers said they while they were disappointed that the chief cancelled a meeting that was scheduled for today, they were more disturbed by what they were told was a pattern of inappropriate handling by some police officers when it came to alleged cases of domestic violence in the past.

Catherine A. Betts, the executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, rattled off a number of alleged cases when officers, responding to an alleged domestic violence situation, involved either a friend, family member or fellow police officer.

Betts, who is also an attorney who handled domestic violence cases, cited one such incident between a woman and her abuser who at the time was a former police officer. “While she was in her car, her abuser broke the window to grab her,” she said. “She called the police, and the police who responded knew the abuser and told her they will not take a report because the car was marital property.”

Cheryl Yamaki, an attorney who has seen cases over the span of 16 years, says while there are police officers who do their job, “far too often there are police officers who do not respond to domestic violence situations appropriately when the perpetrator is a friend, family member, or fellow police officer, and these officers have shattered the trust we placed in them.”

Betts says that in the past year-and-a-half, of the 30 cases her commission has tracked, in the majority of those cases, police neither filed a report, nor made an arrest.

When it comes to the recent high-profile case involving the police sergeant, the lawmakers said they also withholding judgement until the investigation into the matter is completed.

But they had a point to make with the department.

“Those that enforce the law, should be enforcing it across the board, even if it is a first-responder, or police officer,” said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim.

The lawmakers say they hope to have that face-to-face meeting with the chief at a public hearing tentatively scheduled for the end of the month.

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