Surgeon General among thousands cited for violating emergency orders; police reverting back to warning violators

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Surgeon General Jerome Adams has a court date pending here in Hawaii. Turns out, when he was here helping the city with surge testing, he went to a park while they were off-limits and an officer cited him. Adams is one of the nearly 60,000 cited for breaking the rules since the pandemic started.

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The majority of those infractions were doled-out in the last couple of months, but officers are now being told to warn people instead of citing them–unless they do not cooperate.

The Honolulu Police Department (HPD) issued roughly 1,200 citations and 13,000 warnings since tier one of the new reopening plan started Sept. 24.

State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers President Malcom Lutu said officers have been told to revert back to warning violators when possible.

“Officers were directed to give out warnings instead of citing. So we went back to the warning phase. And also the numbers have gone down, since we started citing,” Lutu said.

Lutu went on to explain that it was, “the chief’s call.”

According to the state judiciary spokesperson: “The number of Emergency Order cases threatens to overshadow many other important court functions. In FY 2019, there were 19,722 criminal actions filed with the First Circuit District Court. The 55,000 Emergency Order citations issued by HPD in less than two months is more than double the total number of criminal citations typically received by the First Circuit District Court over an entire year.”

The state judiciary said only 13,411 citations have been resolved so far. Out of those, 12,893 have been either dismissed with prejudice, dismissed without prejudice or not prosecuted for one reason or another.

In August, it seems no one was immune from being cited. Even U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams was ticketed for violating the emergency order. Adams was on Oahu to assist with COVID-19 surge testing. A police officer gave him a citation on Aug. 23 at Kualoa Regional Park.

The officer noted on the citation that he “Observed Adams in Kualoa Regional Park with two other males standing, looking at the view taking pictures. They moved to the center of the park to take more pictures. Adams put his mask on as he walked back toward their vehicle.ADAMS stated he was here to work with the governor for COVID. Adams stated he did not know the parks were closed and could not be there.”

City Council member Tommy Waters said he thinks Adams getting a ticket was a perfect example where HPD could have used their discretion.

“We’re turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals by charging them with full misdemeanors punishable by one year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine, when really most people are law-abiding. And if you just give them a warning, they’re going to listen. They’re going to go home.”

But, Waters added, “I think it’s going to be interesting to see what the prosecutor does.”

In a statement, the prosecutor’s office said “The Surgeon General will be treated the same as anyone else. They have not yet received the citation, once they do, then we will review it. If there is sufficient evidence, will prosecute. If the evidence is insufficient, it will be dismissed.”

Adams has a remote Zoom court hearing scheduled Oct. 21 at 8:30 a.m.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it did not have a comment at this time.

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