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Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Puana Attorney to Police Commission: Too little, too late
By News Release @ 6:10 PM :: 8017 Views :: Honolulu County, Ethics, Law Enforcement, Police



I want to thank newly appointed Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan for stating that she would request the Commission to invite me to provide testimony regarding evidence of possible misconduct by high ranking members of the Honolulu Police Department in the Puana case. This evidence was uncovered during my representation of Mr. Puana when he was falsely accused of stealing Chief Kealoha and his wife's mailbox. It is clear to me that Ms. Sheehan, at least, wishes to make an honest attempt at fulfilling her duties and responsibilities to the community as a Police Commissioner.

The case against my client, Mr. Puana, was dismissed in December of 2014 after Police Chief Kealoha caused a mistrial. The United States Attorney's Office later dismissed the case with prejudice after we disclosed to them the evidence of police misconduct we had uncovered. Since then, almost 18 months ago, I have never been contacted nor asked to appear before the Police Commission to discuss the events and evidence surrounding the case. In fact, it appears that the only person the Commission has spoken to regarding the allegations of misconduct by members of HPD and of Chief Kealoha is ... Chief Kealoha. Having conducted absolutely no independent investigation itself, other than taking the word of Chief Kealoha in a closed executive session, it comes as no surprise that the Commission continues to unequivocally support Chief Kealoha. The Commission's unwavering support flies in the face of both former United States Attorney General Holder and the FBI's belief that the information we uncovered was credible enough to warrant what has now turned into more than a year- long federal criminal investigation. One does not rely solely on the word of the fox to tell you whether he stole and ate the chicken from the henhouse.

The Police Commission is an independent civilian agency. It is tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the activity of the Police Department, in particular the Chief of Police. Based upon its inaction in this matter, it is clear to me that the Police Commission is incapable of fulfilling its obligations to the community. The Commission's failure to serve the interests of our community is understandable, to some degree, because not a single member of the Commission appointed by the mayor, other than Ms. Sheehan, has any legal or law enforcement background. I have no doubt that the Commissioners themselves are good people. They are, however, simply ill equipped and apparently incapable of or unwilling to perform the serious task for which they were commissioned.

A prime example of the Commission's lack of understanding of its responsibilities to act and appear to act as an independent oversight agency is the fact that the Commission conducts its hearings within the Honolulu Police Department headquarters itself. This requires members of the public who wish to bring complaints against police officers and/or the Chief himself to walk through a gauntlet of officers before being able to testify before the Commission. And then to testify before a room full of yet more officers. Such an intimidating setting does not foster independence nor candor from members of the public. Rather, it serves only to stifle free and open discussion, and thus to limit the information the Commission receives regarding the conduct of HPD officers and of the Chief himself.

As a result, while I would have, at an earlier time, been willing to meet with the Police Commission, I no longer have any belief that the Police Commission, as a whole, can or will act appropriately or responsibly in this matter. At this late time in the process, Mr. Puana will rely on the federal grand jury for justice to be done.



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