Tuesday, September 23, 2008


OF GREAT DANES AND CHIHUAHUAS: Our continuing serialization of Tony Sommer’s book KPD Blue this weekend elicited a comment purportedly by one KPD officer that is worthy of note. Even if it is not from an officer it certainly mirrors some of the comments we’ve heard from officers we’ve spoken to recently as well as those we’ve known for many years

Calling him or herself “One” the writer said in part

I've read the book and Tony is, for the most part, spot on. I have a few issues about some of it. I don't think he went far enough to allow readers knowledge that there are cops in K.P.D. who are well trained and competent. We do have them, a lot of them.

There were parts of the book where Tony does sound like someone harping over the sting of racism. I don't believe it's so much that as much as a problem of being an outsider from the decrepit circle of Kauai old timers. A lot of us locals, (Outer Island,) have felt the slap of discrimination. Not racial, but discrimination none the less.

Tony's right on most of it but wrong on some. Right about the Mayors office in the last decade. Wrong On Chief Perry. He's a great man and there is promise here.

Tony would probably be surprised at just how much a lot of us agree with most of his view points....

What ever you all do, don't cover all of us in blue with the same blanket of putrid disgust that you reserve for most of those cast of characters in Tony's book. Believe it or not, the vast majority of the people in the department are good, solid Americans who care deeply about the community, the whole community, not just the local ethnic blend, everyone.

Journalist Joan Conrow of KauaiEclectic, who has every reason in the world to be critical of some at KPD after her wrongful arrest for covering a news story agreed and was glad to hear someone from the department say so.

She wrote

Good to hear from someone clad in blue, especially that "the vast majority of the people in the department are good, solid Americans who care deeply about the community, the whole community, not just the local ethnic blend, everyone."

I feel better already. :)

And we couldn’t agree more with both. Individually almost all of the officers we know are among some of the best cops around.

It’s a really hard if not impossible job of balancing protection of people’s rights and providing for the security of those being protected and served.

And the best thing we can do to aid those who do that job well is to expose those who don’t do the job the right way so that the ones who do can force the others to either reform or resign.

More than anything else what is called for is professionalism.

We have political prisoners right here on Kaua`i. And they were abused in the process of their arrests.

We have cultural practitioners non-violently performing civil disobedience to stop their ancestors from being encased in concrete and somehow KPD can’t be happy just putting them trough the court system. Instead they treat the like they’re violent ice-heads for a petty misdemeanor simple trespassing charge.

Let’s not forget the facts of just this most recent incident here.

The Naue protesters showed up at the graveyard and said “we are here- come and arrest us”. They spent all day trying to get arrested and were refused. The police were there taking pictures and refused to arrest them there so the protesters left at sundown.

Then, after the chief’s announcement in the papers that they would be getting warrants for their arrest, it was asked that they or their attorneys be contacted so they could turn themselves in if they were charged.

But instead someone obtained a secret warrant and KPD officers handcuffed and arrested them at their homes at 5 p.m. on a Friday night, a tactic usually employed to try to make sure someone has to spend the whole night- or in this case the weekend- in jail.

How this is not pure and utter harassment escapes us.

Then they charged a sympathetic reporter who was covering the story for being there reporting it.

The cops are swarming around the seven guys locked together. Three members of the press are there and none are told to stay away by anyone... not the owner, not the cops and certainly not the iwi kupuna who really “own” that property.

Then the sympathetic journalist writes the best article in the state about what happened and she alone is summoned, locked in a room with three officers and interrogated.

But instead of allowing the intended intimidation, she writes about the intimidation and so they try to arrest her too.

It’s hard to imagine how all this happens without the chief’s prior knowledge but apparently it did because he quashes the warrant when he is informed by her lawyer.

Somehow this is allowed to happen. Not because all the guys on the force are bad cops but because they most likely turn a blind eye to the abuses and intentional harassment.

And this is not the only case this year where KPD officers abused their position by using unnecessary force in arresting a non-violent Hawaiian practitioner who was performing civil disobedience.

If there was political pressure from above did it say “and go in and harass them when you arrest them- as a matter of fact, go after that reporter too”?.

Maybe. We may never know but more than likely, not. If there were politicians “putting on the pressure” they more than likely told them they wanted them charged and brought to court.

It may not have been up to KPD to determine whether or not they were arrested but it was KPD that was responsible for how they are processed.

When the mayor or other mucky-mucks get arrested for stealing millions or some other fraud and corruption they don’t drag them down to the station house in handcuffs, They let their lawyers know and they turn themselves in.

But when people perform non-violent civil disobedience to stop the desecration of a graveyard they’re considered hardened criminals to be grabbed off the street..

Yes, most of the officers at KPD are among the best cops we’ve ever seen anywhere. We need to create an atmosphere where they can come forward and ensure that those who are not doing their job professionally don’t taint the rest.

This kind of abuse during essentially political arrests doesn’t happen without the implicit blind eye of those professional officers.

And if this kind of harassment is standard operating procedure at KPD there is systemically something wrong. And if there’s something systemically wrong it starts with leadership.

In this case the chief may not be part of the problem but the honeymoon is over and it’s time for him to be part of the solution.

1 comment:

Tony Sommer said...

I appreciate the comments from "One."

He said he read the whole book and so I assume he did.

I would hope every one who comments on Andy's blog reads the whole work before judging it (It's available at Amazon.com and, yes, the royalty checks are welcome).

At the end of the book, I tried very hard to make it clear there are a lot of good cops on the KPD.

The book is based largely on lawsuits filed against KPD (sometimes by KPD officers).

It had to be done that way and it was not the balanced picture I usually pride myself on presenting.

The simple fact is Kauai County government in general and the KPD and Police Commission in particular, constantly violate the Hawaii public records and open meetings laws.

Most investigative reporters will tell you their first and most important source is the public record.

In Kauai there simply is no public record.

Why? Because The Garden Island, The Honolulu Advertiser and my old bosses at The Honolulu Star-Bulletin refuse to pay for the lawyers to take Kauai County to court to pry open those government file cabinets and kick open those locked meeting room doors.

On every other newspaper where I've worked, all I had to do was call the lawyers the paper already on retainer. They were at my side in less than 30 minutes.

The press in most of the United States takes seriously its role as a "watch dog" on government. In Hawaii, the media is the government's "lap dog."

The lawsuits, particularly those in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, were the only public records Kauai County couldn't hide.

And those lawsuits were about the worst KPD abuses.

With a very few esceptions this isn't a book about patrol officers, detectives ans sergeants. Most of those I knew in KPD were and are highly dedicated officers, if not as well trained as they should be.

If there is any criticism I have of the street cops in KPD it is that they lack discipline. And that failure is in their superiors, not the cops themselves.

When a watch sergeant, Mel Rapozo, the line supervisor of every street cop working that shift, allows officers to bring an arrested woman into his office and strip, fondle and photograph her while he does nothing to stop them, and no one is fired, that is a really screwed up police department.

The problem has been the middle management, many of the lieutenants and assistant chiefs.

They were the ones who fought reforms by Chiefs Freitas and Lum, they were the ones who allied themselves with Mayors Kusaka and Baptiste.

And they were the ones who lobbied for Darryl Perry as chief.

I don't know Chief Perry. I've never spoken to him. And the story in my book ends with the shameful way Baptiste ousted K. C. Lum.

But from all indications nothing has changed.

The only other point I would like to make is taht too many people are defending the racism on Kauai by calling it "outsiderism."

Folks, you can put lipstick on it, but, really, it is racism and it really should be addressed by the Kauai government, police managers, the press, the public and, yes, authors of books.

By the way, I'm not giving out my petrsonal email addy but my phone number in Phoenix is listed (as it has been my entire career as a reporter)if you care to call me and chat.

And there is a place on the Amazon page where the book is sold to both post reviews and to make forum comments.

All feedback is very welcome.


Tony Sommer