by Anthony Sommer
Chapter 6 : Lisa Fisher
After being bludgeoned by the police union and local politicians in his first attempt at imposing discipline in the Monica Alves case, KPD Chief Freitas flinched quite visibly when it next came to dealing with sexual harassment. Freitas’s actions hardly reflected a profile in courage.
When a woman KPD officer was sexually abused by male KPD officers at a KPD station, Freitas punished the victim instead of the perpetrators.
As of last count, KPD has five women officers. That’s 3.6 percent of the total force of 140 sworn officers.
The national average for all police departments is 15 percent women, according to Police Chief Magazine. In Albuquerque, N.M. and Tucson, Ariz., women officers comprise one-third of the force and in San Jose, Calif., half of the city’s police officers are women.
One of the reasons the KPD receives so few applications from women is because of what happened to Lisa Fisher.
Fisher, a Kauai High School alum who grew up dreaming only of being a Kauai police officer, resigned in 1997 because of what she termed “a hostile work environment.”
In a lawsuit she filed the following year, Fisher claimed her supervisor at the KPD Hanalei Substation on Kauai’s north shore, Sgt. Cecil Baliaris, had repeatedly made suggestions about her body and his genitals, leading other officers to do the same.
Ultimately, Fisher alleged, Officer Michael Kiyabu grabbed her breasts in the police station in front of the other officers.
When she filed a complaint with Freitas, she was taken off the road and given a desk job.
The charges never were investigated, her lawsuit claimed. Although her lawsuit never went to trial, it’s quite obvious Fisher was correct.
In 2000, Kauai County paid $425,000 to Fisher to settle the case, not counting the considerable but undisclosed amount it cost the county attorney to hire outside counsel to help the county lose the case.
It was the highest settlement in Kauai history, by far eclipsing Monica Aves’s $250,000 settlement and pushing the taxpayer’s tab for KPD misconduct even higher.
It also was the first time a woman Kauai County employee ever had sued the county for sexual harassment and discrimination.
It is instructive to note that, even before she won her settlement, Fisher moved permanently to the mainland. She saw no future for herself on the Garden Island.
“As far as I know, no one was ever disciplined in this case,” said Richard Wilson, Fisher’s Kauai-born Honolulu lawyer.
A lack of oversight that permits questionable racial and gender attitudes is compounded, Wilson asserted, by Kauai’s detachment from the rest of Hawaii.
“Kauai is 560 square miles of island located 100 miles from any outside authority,” he said. “Kauai is very much the ‘Separate Kingdom’ it prides itself on, just as its police force is the best example.”
Chapter 7 : Elaine Schaefer
In another highly-publicized case involving a woman victim, Freitas again sat on his hands while his department did nothing.
Freitas’s role as a reformer and his credibility was being rapidly diminished by his own inaction in blatantly obvious cases of police discrimination.
Elaine Schaefer was not a Kauai cop but she was a cop. She was a white retired Oakland police sergeant who had moved to Kauai.
Oakland is a tough town and Schaefer was a tough cop. But the sexist and racist culture within the KPD was even tougher.
One day in May 2000, Schaefer was riding her horse on a secluded North Shore trail with a spectacular view of the open ocean that stretches all the way to Alaska.
Three pit bulls attacked the horse. Schaefer was thrown, and the terrified riderless horse plunged over a cliff and was killed.
Another white woman saw the attack on Schaefer and her horse and spotted a local man who had been hunting with the dogs. Wild pig hunting with dogs is popular with Kauai locals.
As the man ran past her carrying a rifle, he told the witness, “I’m not going to take the blame for this.”
The witness provided a KPD artist a description that was turned into a sketch that was published in the Garden Island newspaper.
The KPD was flooded with phone calls from north shore residents, all naming the same individual.
The police report categorized the attack—which should have been written up as reckless endangerment and criminal property damage—as a leash law violation, a petty misdemeanor.
The suspect—who apparently had killed the dogs and hidden their bodies—never was arrested.
There never was a lineup so the witness could try to identify the suspect in person while her memory was fresh.
Eventually, the witness moved back to the mainland.
Three months after the incident, the KPD mailed a driver’s license photo of the suspect to the witness. She was unable to pick him out of the photo lineup.
In September 2000, Detective Lt. Glenn Morita, who had been assigned to investigate the case, called Schaefer and told her he had done all he could do and the case was closed. No one would be charged.
Also in September 2000, Detective Lt. Glenn Morita was named “Officer of the Month” by the Kauai Police Commission.
“The minute the sketch of the suspect appeared in the newspaper, everyone on the North Shore knew exactly who it was, but he hasn’t been arrested and probably never will be,” said a third-generation resident of Kauai.
“Here’s a local guy with very close ties to the Kauai Police Department. The victim is a haole from the mainland. That’s how it is with KPD. That’s how it is on Kauai.”