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Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck suspended for anti-Asian comments

  • COURTESY PHOTO
                                Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck

    COURTESY PHOTO

    Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck

The Kauai Police Commission is suspending Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck for racist comments made against Asian Americans, the Kauai Police Department announced late this afternoon in a news release.

Raybuck, whose comments were made in the workplace on Nov. 13, 2019, and July 29 against Japanese Americans, will be placed on unpaid suspension for five days, from April 26 to April 30, for violating the County Policy Against Discrimination.

However, the Human Resources Department’s investigation into the complaint of an employee, who alleged Raybuck made racist comments to him, concluded there was no evidence to support that the chief failed to promote him based on his ancestry, race or national origin.

It further concluded the promotional selection was fair, objective and did not violate civil service laws or rules, the news release said.

The Garden Island reported that Raybuck was explaining why an employee of Japanese descent was not selected for a promotion. In audio recordings submitted as evidence to the complaint, Raybuck said, “So, somebody in the Japanese culture, if they think your idea is absolutely stupid and the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard, what’s their typical response to you?” Raybuck asked. “‘Yes, yes, yes.’”

The complaint alleged the police chief squinted his eyes and bowed his head when making the comments.

In November 2019, Raybuck allegedly used facial gestures and an accent when he described to his command staff an Asian customer he saw at a fast-food restaurant. The complaint alleged the chief laughed and thought his demonstration was funny.

Raybuck’s anti-Asian remarks mocking Japanese Americans comes at a time when the nation is seeing a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes across the nation, in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s racist comments by dubbing the coronavirus the “kung flu.”

But anti-Asian hate crimes have not surfaced in Hawaii where there is a large Asian American population.

Raybuck, a relative newcomer to Hawaii, moved to Kauai two years ago from Las Vegas after he was selected in March 2019 as police chief. He retired in February 2019 as captain from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

“I value and appreciate diversity in the workplace and within the community,” Raybuck said in a written statement. “I accept responsibility for my comments and will continue to use this experience to expand my cultural awareness and increase my knowledge and understanding of different cultures.

“I am deeply humbled by the support I have received and appreciate the grace I have been given. Moving forward I am even more committed to serving this great community and doing the work necessary to maintain the confidence of the Police Commission and the employees of the Kauai Police Department.”

Some have called for Raybuck to resign.

Ken Kashiwahara, former national ABC news correspondent, said in a letter to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Raybuck’s “disparagement of Japanese Americans is shocking, incredulous and unacceptable. …It is yet another example of the wave of Trump-inspired, anti-Asian rhetoric and assaults sweeping the country.”

He said Japanese, including his great-grandparents who arrived in 1885, were among the first immigrants to settle on Kauai. “They didn’t spend their lives helping to build a sensitive, caring and accepting island community only to have their physical appearance, speech and culture mocked and denigrated by a prominent public official. Raybuck should resign.”

But Kauai’s mayor did not call for his resignation.

On March 12, shortly after the allegations were made public, Mayor Derek Kawakami said: “I was hurt. Our office rolled the red carpet out to accommodate him and get his family acclimated to Kauai.

“I’ve worked closely on a number of measures with him,” he said. “We have a great working relationship.

“But for Japanese-Americans in Hawaii, it stings,” Kawakami said. “The timing of the pandemic and the rise in some of the discrimination against Asian-Americans, it cuts deeply.

“I’m a grandson of an immigrant who came from Japan at 12. The bombing of Pearl Harbor happened. Both my grandfather and my uncle volunteered to go fight in that war just to prove that we’re Americans, that we’re patriots.”

Kawakami said, despite the hurt, “the chief and I will be able to work fine.… Our ability to work together is about the people of Kauai, which is the most important thing. I tell people don’t focus on this…because we have bigger things to focus on.”

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