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ACLU of Hawaii files federal civil rights lawsuit against city and Honolulu Police Department

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The ACLU of Hawaii filed a federal civil rights lawsuit this morning against the City and County of Honolulu and the Honolulu Police Department claiming abuse of power.

The lawsuit seeks to end what officials at the ACLU called HPD’s unchecked practice of letting police officers abuse their powers for personal purposes.

The complaint stems from an incident two years ago in which a police officer arrested and jailed a 15-year-old boy after the boy got into a fight with the officer’s son the day before.

The complaint alleges, among other things, abuse of power, multiple violations of the boy’s Constitutional rights and a lack of an HPD policy that prevents the type of misconduct and conflict of interest that occurred in this case, where an officer used his powers to target, intimidate and harass a high school student.

“Unfortunately, the circumstances that gave rise to this complaint are not a one-off. They are just the latest example of a pattern and practice by HPD that regularly condones misuse of police powers,” said Joshua Wisch, executive director of the ACLU of Hawaii.

HPD is one of the few major police departments nationwide that does not have a policy of prohibiting officers from investigating or arresting people with whom they have personal, family or close relationships.

The officer, in this case, was disciplined, according to an HPD communication, but no details about the punishment were disclosed, said Jongwook “Wookie” Kim, ACLU staff attorney.

“We need transparency in the police disciplinary process to restore trust, accountability and legitimacy to police departments statewide,” Kim said.

HPD couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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