A DLNR source tells Hawai’i Free Press that fired DOCARE Chief Tommy Friel is due to meet with Gov Ige tomorrow (Friday July 15, 2016) to discuss his firing by DLNR Director Suzanne Case.
Reprinted here is an anonymous letter from a DOCARE officer in support of Friel.
Dear DLNR Chair and Deputy,
It is with utmost respect that I submit this letter. Please forgive my anonymity but I fear reprisal for speaking out.
I feel like I just got sucker punched in the stomach and the wind was knocked right out of me. I don’t think you have any idea how many of us in DOCARE have just had the utter hope and optimism sucked right out of us. I found myself exclaim at the news of Friel’s dismissal, “WHAT? OH NO! THIS CANT BE TRUE!” I felt that all too familiar gut wrenching feeling of defeat and helplessness when faced with awful news of substantial consequence. I shared the disappointing news with a couple of other officers and their reaction was almost word for word with my anguished response. One seasoned officer simply responded with, “You gotta be kidding me, is this a sick joke?” “I am now convinced DOCARE is cursed and doomed to remain a pathetic substandard agency, I give up!”
I strongly believe your decision to not retain Tommy Friel as Chief of DOCARE is a huge mistake that will once again set the division spiraling backwards. Morale will undoubtedly erode. It will also further empower the cunning thug gang that has controlled DOCARE’s destiny for several years. The bad guys win again! Hail the DOCARE mafia!
Friel is our best hope for real effectual change and forward advancement. Do you not want change? Have you been led to believe all is rosy in DOCARE? I assure you it is not as we are the laughing stock of the law enforcement community in Hawaii. Personally I am tired of being ridiculed. I am absolutely dedicated to my job and feel tremendous pride in the stated mission but am weary of having to continually make excuses and stand up for DLNR and DOCARE’s in the face of our critics.
Regardless of what you’ve been told, DOCARE is a very broken agency and the evidence is quite apparent when clearly laid out and presented.
This small faction of self motivated individuals who have colluded to present a case of no confidence in Friel are simply trying to protect their own selfish and distorted agendas. They do not have the agency, our natural and cultural resources, or the people of Hawaii in their best interest. It’s all about their own self preservation and whatever envisioned power and control agenda they have. For the most part they are ineffectual managers and supervisors who have much to fear from a boss like Friel. They have tremendous trepidation for someone who has the courage and ethical fortitude to hold their feet to the fire.
This status quo leadership faction who has operated with impunity and semi-autonomy for years on their geographically isolated branches finally got spanked on the wrist and called to the carpet by the new boss. They were only asked to do their job and to do it proper with just cause, nothing unreasonable. But, their days of unchecked shenanigans appeared to be coming to an end. In response they are now crying foul and calling in their politically connected pals to commit career assassination. By circumventing the chain of command they themselves complain about, they are going straight to the top with a well orchestrated, well rehearsed and manipulated multi-tiered complaint built on circumstance. One that with little effort can be torn apart to show it lacks real substance. And, they have the gall to publically brag about how they are taking down the boss and answering directly to the Chair.
These so called managers are a big part of DOCARE’s problem. Friel knows that and so do many of the honorable officers in DOCARE. Sadly some officers actually support them as they are birds of a feather or they simply go along with them out of fear of the retaliatory wrath.
The culture of apathy is widespread. The current so called leadership team and their prior mentors have been holding the agency back for years and largely the reason DOCARE is in such bad shape. Anyone who really takes an in depth look at the situation can see that. They are the real problem not Friel and I’m blown away that the reality has been spun the other way and presented to you as such. They are playing coercive politics at the expense of Hawaii and its people. Friel cannot be manipulated to embrace their status quo existence and they are threatened by him, it’s as simple as that. It doesn’t mean that Friel is inflexible. He’s wise enough to know that big picture success sometimes means compromise.
You are both highly intelligent people; however, I feel you’ve been hoodwinked by these malcontents. In less than 6 months Friel has started the wheels turning on numerous efforts to better DOCARE. Issues that have plagued our agency for decades are finally being addressed.
You gave Friel a bunch of lemons and instead of asking him to make lemonade you asked him to make champagne. Friel was doomed to fail from the get go if you embraced his plan of cleaning house and then denied him the ability to take out the rubbish that’s been soiling and stinking the house for decades. Be prepared for more Ferguson type black eyes if the culture of deception remains the norm. The bottom line is if you (DLNR) are proactive and identify your problem officers internally, you will be applauded as champions for righteousness by taking a strong stance and cleaning house, however, if you sweep the problems under the rug and they screw up (eventually they always do), and the media, lawmakers, etc. expose them first, then you will undoubtedly suffer the brunt of public scrutiny. My take is Friel was trying to be proactive in protecting your reputation as well as the agency. When you clean house you have to start from the top down to really be effective.
Much of DOCARE’s management and supervisory staff were historically put in place through blatant cronyism, nepotism, and the old boy network. A simple check of their lack of credentials and pathetic lack of accomplishment will reveal that your DOCARE managers are mediocre at best and some shouldn’t even be in law enforcement. In a few cases they should be charged criminally.
Friel is not perfect and this is his first effort to take on an agency of this size, complexity, and dysfunction, but, he is leaps and bounds far more qualified, far more experienced, and far more Pono than any of his predecessors.
His mistake may have been in trying to hit the ground running too fast. Friel is not in this for the money or prestige. He has a long list of accomplishment and a decent retirement from the feds. As a native Hawaiian both Malama Aina and perpetuation of his cultural heritage are his motivation for doing this job. Others before him have assumed this similar mantra but it was really more about narcissism and megalomania. I believe Friel to be genuine.
The accusation that Friel is surrounding himself with his friends and cronies is ridiculous. This is an ironical claim from those who epitomize this method of hand off succession.
It is my understanding that Friel got a less than welcoming reception by the existing DOCARE leadership team and struggled just to get willing staffers to assist him on various projects. Friel’s been around long enough and worked closely enough with DOCARE over the years that he has a fairly decent assessment of who the actual workers are and who the useless slackers are. A couple of the staffers he asked to help him may not have been popular in certain circles, but that’s no reason to start accusations of cronyism.
I can’t stress enough how much I feel you’re making a critical mistake. Believe it or not rumors are already popping up that Friel is too principled and incorruptible therefore poses a threat to certain agendas. What total hogwash! I really hope that isn’t the case, I don’t like conspiracy theories.
For the life of me I don’t understand how he could get his marching papers with less than six months on the job. It would take anyone even those of the sharpest of wit several months to wrap their head around the state system and the finer details of the job. Unless he did something grossly negligent or politically incorrect that can’t be overcome why wouldn’t you simply extend his probation as is customary and put him on a specific performance plan crafted for success?
DOCARE has been without a leader for far too long. It’s woefully unfair to the men and women who are on the front lines doing the job. Let’s not put them on that roller coaster again. Please reconsider your position regarding Tommy Friel. Candidates with his combination of conservation and law enforcement training and experience are hard to come by. Six months in this instance is not long enough to make an accurate and concise performance evaluation. Extend his probation if you feel compelled to do so but make sure you give him detailed expectations and direction.
No disrespect intended but please understand that principles and practices of law enforcement apply regardless of the specialization and that you as lay persons may not always fully understand at the onset those subtleties that apply.
Be cautious and inquisitive with those who come forward to demonize Friel. Ask yourself if they have an ulterior motive even if they come as a well organized group. Evidence can be manipulated to look communal and comprehensive.
I sincerely hope you take pause and re-evaluate your position. There’s nothing that can’t be undone thus so far if it means the betterment of the Department, Division and the people we serve.
As far as Friel being so called heavy handed in his management style, remember that you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.
I’ll leave you with one more quote from Winston Churchill;
“You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life”
Thank you for taking the time to read my plea for restorative action.
Anonymous DLNR Officer
June 22, 2016: DOCARE Chief Forced Out—Retaliation for Investigating DLNR Corruption, Theft of Guns