Officer warns police commission on chief selection and corruption
The complaint from a decorated police officer who is urging the Honolulu Police Commission to scrutinize police chief applicants who might be involved in the corruption case against former Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife was taken up behind closed doors Wednesday.
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The complaint from a decorated police officer who is urging the Honolulu Police Commission to scrutinize police chief applicants who might be involved in the corruption case against former
Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife was taken up behind closed doors Wednesday.
Denny Santiago, the 2011 recipient of the Honolulu
Police Department’s Warrior Silver Medal of Valor for saving a civilian from an armed man, came before the commission on Sept. 8 and said he and another officer have been targeted for retaliation because they have testified in the federal investigation of the former chief and his wife, Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha.
While the commission heard Santiago’s complaint at the Sept. 8 meeting, it held off on discussing it, citing the need to address personnel issues in closed session. The matter was placed on its Wednesday agenda.
On Sept. 8, Santiago
expressed his fear of losing his job. He said he spoke with the FBI concerning the events surrounding the alleged theft of the Kealohas’ mailbox, and has been retaliated against by higher-ups.
The Kealohas pinned the theft on the uncle of Katherine Kealoha. A federal lawsuit brought by the uncle, Gerard Puana, alleges a conspiracy by police, including then-Chief Kealoha, to wrongly arrest and prosecute him to help the Kealohas in a family dispute against Puana over money. The mailbox theft case ended in a mistrial when the chief brought up Puana’s criminal past.
Santiago said higher-ranking officers with probable knowledge and/or involvement have applied for the police chief position.
“You’ve got to look at them, and see if they’re connected,” Santiago said. “What did they do? What did they know? Have they done anything since?”
Santiago claims corruption runs rampant within HPD and that a double-standard exists — cover-ups and lies to protect higher-ranking officers, while lower-ranking officers are retaliated against for reporting wrongdoing.
The 47-year-old Santiago, an HPD corporal in the East Honolulu district, wrote the commission Sept. 5 alleging some applicants for police chief likely have knowledge of and involvement with the case involving the alleged theft of the Kealohas’ mailbox, since their subordinates were involved.
He explains how irregular it was for one district’s Crime Reduction Unit to go into two other districts to handle a case, as occurred with the mailbox theft, as well as homicide detectives handling a theft case. He maintains that commanders likely knew or should have questioned what was going on.
To illustrate what
happens to a lower-ranking officer who reports a crime, Santiago said he reported a false arrest in a case where he was the lead investigator. He alleges a person was arrested with no probable cause.
Santiago said that when he reported to his command that his lieutenant committed a crime, it was ignored. Instead, he said, an internal affairs complaint was initiated against Santiago.
He claims there are numerous cases where police opened “criminal cases against civilians and officers without the elements of the crime.”
He alleges police filing false reports, vehicles being searched illegally, even use of a civilian to search a vehicle to circumvent having to
obtain a search warrant.
In a case involving a retired major who allegedly struck and killed a pedestrian in a car accident, Santiago reported to internal affairs (Professional Standards Office) that police removed items from a car without a search warrant, but nothing was ever done, he alleges.
Santiago also said that the department has gone to great lengths against the other officer who testified in the federal investigation. The retaliation, he said, included DNA search warrants for the officer and his car in a petty misdemeanor
motor vehicle case involving the officer, which he said is unheard of.
“What I hope to get out of this is an avenue that officers can take when they are wronged by the
department,” he said. “The overwhelming mentality of the department right now is fire them, and let them fight for their job back.”
Before the commission went into executive session on the matter, State of Hawaii Organization of
Police Officers (SHOPO) president Tenari Maafala said Wednesday, “I have great respect for Santiago,” but he could not comment on the allegations being made. He said “if there was a morale problem, there would be a blue flu.”