A law enforcement officer with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has been released after posting bail.
Ethan Ferguson, 39, was charged with five counts of sexual assault. He is accused of sexually assaulting a young girl at a beach park in Hilo on Jan. 1.
“It certainly makes the residents and others feel a little uneasy,” said Sen. Will Espero, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Safety.
According to newly released court documents, Ferguson was in uniform and on-duty at the time of the alleged assault.
Documents say Ferguson caught the teen smoking marijuana at Lalakea Beach Park. He allegedly told her he would not turn her in if she gave him money, drugs or sex.
When the girl told Ferguson she had no money or drugs, and refused to have sex with him, he then assaulted her, court documents claim.
Ferguson was arrested on Jan. 7. The following day, he was charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault and three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.
His bail was set at $13,000. He is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 2.
“Whenever a law enforcement officer is charged or indicted in a heinous crime like this, it really puts a damper on the public’s trust and faith in these officers,” said Espero.
DLNR says the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement will cooperate with the Hawaii Police Department’s criminal investigation, in addition to conducting its own internal investigation.
Ferguson was a conservation and resources enforcement officer with DLNR and had been with the department since July 2013. In his current position, he is supposed to enforce the laws involving state lands, parks and shores.
Since being arrested and charged he has been placed on administrative leave with pay.
Prior to this job, he worked for the Honolulu Police Department.
“We need to see if the issue is with recruitment, or training, or supervision, but to have a person in his authority conducting these types of activities and crimes is just unacceptable,” said Espero.
There are 109 DOCARE officers statewide, and 27 on Hawaii Island. DLNR says all of its employees undergo a background check.
DOCARE officers are responsible for enforcement activities of the Department. The division, with full police powers, enforces all State laws and rules involving State lands, State Parks, historic sites, forest reserves, aquatic life and wildlife areas, coastal zones, Conservation districts, State shores, as well as county ordinances involving county parks. The division also enforces laws relating to firearms, ammunition, and dangerous weapons.