The man at the center of an investigation involving four Honolulu police officers is afraid to speak to investigators, sources say.
The alleged incident happened last Sunday afternoon in the Keeaumoku area.
The four officers, who have between three to 16 years of service, were placed on restricted duty while the FBI investigates a claim that they forced the man to place his mouth on a public urinal.
HPD Chief Susan Ballard learned of the incident after another police officer came forward. After an internal investigation, Ballard contacted the FBI.
Tenari Maafala, president of SHOPO (State of Hawaii Police Officers Union), calls the allegations “serious.”
“I can only hope and pray for the sake of the officers that these are allegations, and appropriate actions will be taken. It’s no doubt any action of an officer as serious as this, it casts a bad light on the department,” said Maafala.
Sources say the man is afraid to speak up, fearing police retaliation.
“The only way people can vindicate their rights is complain. If somebody thinks they were wronged by a police officer, the only way they can stop the police officer from doing those are civil rights actions and police commission actions,” said attorney Kevin O’Grady.
O’Grady explained that a person can either file a complaint with the police commission, or file a civil lawsuit where the victim may be entitled to monetary compensation.
In an email response, a Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Yu said:
“HPD officers are trained to protect the constitutional rights of individuals regardless of circumstances, and we expect our officers to be professional and respectful to all members of the public at all times. The majority of our officers are compassionate and professional, even in difficult and sometimes volatile situations.
“Officers nationally and locally are interacting more frequently with chronically homeless persons, many of whom have substance abuse or mental health issues. HPD recruits and officers receive training in a range of communications topics, including de-escalation techniques and how to respond to trauma and abuse victims and mentally ill persons. HPD does not have policies that specifically address homelessness or homeless persons.”
In a statement, spokesman Kimo Carvalho with the Institute of Human Services said:
“Our hearts were saddened to hear about the allegations made regarding four HPD officers forcing a homeless person to lick a urinal. The news came as a shocking surprise as our staff work with many wonderful officers across Oahu who share common values and a strong will to support our mission in ending homelessness in Hawaii.
“While we support trespass laws; every person (regardless of their housing status) deserves to be treated with the same respect, dignity and safety by our police officers. We commend Chief Susan Ballard in opening an independent investigation. We also look forward to our continued and positive working relationship with the many other HPD officers who assist us in our mission everyday.”
State homeless coordinator Scott Morishige says homeless individuals can reach out to the state for help.
“My office could be a potential resource. People can contact my office or contact other service providers, such as an outreach agency, to be an advocate for them in these types of situations,” he said.
For more information, call the Public Assistance Information Line at 855-643-1643 or click here.