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Monday, July 1, 2024
‘You’re Nothing!’: Hawaii Black Cop Was Belittled and Racially Bullied By Colleagues, Leading to Four Officers Arrested, Nine Others Placed on Paid Leave
By Selected News Articles @ 8:58 PM :: 1104 Views :: Ethics, Police

‘You’re Nothing!’: Hawaii Black Cop Was Belittled and Racially Bullied By Colleagues, Leading to Four Officers Arrested, Nine Others Placed on Paid Leave

by A.L. Lee, Atlanta Black Star, July 1, 2024

The Hawaii Department of Law Enforcement is investigating multiple cases of alleged harassment involving racism and treachery within its own ranks, which targeted a Black officer and led to the recent arrest of four sheriff’s deputies.

Another nine officers have been placed on paid administrative leave and could face further discipline.

The alleged incidents involve repeated harassment and racially insensitive comments made during field exercises, where 56-year-old Martin Horton, a Black officer in training, was subjected to insults about his supposed preference for fried chicken, among other verbal abuse.

The scandal came to light in late June as authorities announced the arrests of Deputy Sheriff William Keahi, 40, for reckless endangering and harassment; Sgt. Erich Mitamura, 40, and Deputy Sheriff Alvin Turla, 47, who are both supervisors, for harassment related to racial misconduct; and Deputy Sheriff William Gary, 46, for additional harassment charges. 

The four arrests — which occurred over the course of nine days — were confirmed by Wayne Ibarra, the acting public information officer for the state Department of Law Enforcement.

Keahi, who faces the most serious charges, worked in the Airport Division with Officer Gary when Horton was assigned to their detail. Mitamura and Turla were partners assigned to the Capitol Central Division, where Horton first reported for duty.

The department did not provide detailed explanations of the charges, but internal sources indicated the allegations are all related to racial harassment during shift briefings and other official police activities.

Keahi, who was assigned to the Airport Division, allegedly put Horton’s life at risk by ordering the man to rush into traffic at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to stop a moving vehicle while on foot, violating safety policies. 

Sources indicated that non-Black trainees never received orders like this.

Keahi was booked June 26 and released. 

The harassment charge each defendant faces is a misdemeanor.

The department withheld the names of the nine officers placed on leave, while the department’s Criminal Investigations Division continues its probe.

“It’s what we consider misconduct,” said Jordan Lowe, Department of Law Enforcement director, according to Hawaii News Now.

The arrests were made as part of separate criminal investigations, but are inextricably linked by the overarching culture of harassment within the department, reports said.

Horton, who came forward with the allegations, said his colleagues began targeting him shortly after his graduation from the academy last December, when he was assigned to the detail at the state Capitol. 

He accused Turla, his supervisor, of making degrading remarks toward him during his first shift at the Capitol in December 2023. 

“It was a sexual comment about my lips that he made not just once, but at least twice,” Horton stated.

Bristling from the disrespect, Horton reported the incident to Sgt. Mitamura, whose response shocked him even more.

“His comment to me was that you’re nothing, you’re no one,” Horton said. “It devalued me and as a trainee, he was my sergeant. I accepted it.”

Horton, a disabled Navy veteran who grew up in Alabama and lived in Hawaii for three decades, said he remained silent about his concerns until the Criminal Investigations Division interviewed him in March about his experience so far at the Capitol.

Turla was arrested June 18 and Mitamura was taken into custody on June 25. 

Both have since been placed on paid leave and stripped of their gun, badge and police-issue IDs.

Horton said he was surprised by the intensity of the department’s response, which has put him at odds with fellow officers, with Horton’s family living in fear of retaliation. However, he continues to emphasize that he did the right thing by reporting the misconduct.

“I can’t categorize it as being criminal, but as a subordinate … when something to that magnitude where someone is being degraded, they’re being humiliated in the sense, I felt like my rights were being violated,” he told the station.

“A reasonable person, if placed in that situation, would have found it offensive, would have found it misogynistic, would have found it discriminatory, because the language that is used, and the people who are targeted are either of a different ethnicity, or gender,” Horton said.

Horton is currently being provided extra protection for he and his family.

“For me, that is a big issue now, because I’m worried about my family,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.

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