In response to the alleged killing of more than 30 suspects by police since 2010, about 40 to 50 people marched on Honolulu police headquarters Wednesday and demanded independent investigations into the deaths.
The protesters also asked the Honolulu Police Commission to create a citizen advisory committee to help with the search for the city’s 12th police chief.
Hawaii also needs an independent, statewide police standards board that has the power to investigate and confer charges against officers who commit offenses during the line of duty, the advocates wrote.
Interim Chief Rade K. Vanic did not reply to questions about the call for independent investigations into suspects’ deaths since 2010 or the creation of a community advisory committee to help with the police chief search. Prosecuting Attorney Steven S. Alm also declined comment.
The protest organizers said that the Honolulu Police Department “has established a culture of impunity within the force. As a result, more than 30 people have been killed by HPD since 2010.”
The recent shooting deaths of unarmed 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap and 29-year-old Lindani Sanele Myeni cannot be independently investigated by Prosecuting Attorney Steven S. Alm given his political support from the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers and his office’s reliance on police to investigate, testify and supply evidence to support criminal charges,” the protesters wrote.
“We ask that our Honolulu leaders demand independent investigations into ALL HPD killings. For at least 30 years, the HPD has investigated its own officer-involved killings. This is colleagues investigating colleagues — a far cry from objective impartiality,” wrote the organizers. “Through this route, all officer-involved killings have been justified. Given Prosecutor Alm’s close ties to SHOPO, he is also unable to act without favoritism. To combat this, we must call for outside sources who have no ties to the force to lead investigations.”
The march on HPD was organized by the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, @RefuseFascismHawaii, @JusticeForLindaniHi, @Af3irmHawaii, @EsserForJustice, among others.
The group was scheduled to gather at the state Capitol and march to HPD headquarters before continuing on to Thomas Square Park for a rally.
Police Commissioners met Wednesday and discussed the creation of a citizens advisory committee but questioned whether the city charter would allow it.
Vanic told police commissioners that HPD’s Professional Standards Office’s investigation into the Sykap shooting is nearing completion and that officers sent a list of charges to prosecutors for the occupants of Sykap’s vehicle on April 5.
Sykap, the driver of a stolen vehicle, was shot and killed by officers on April 5 following a high-speed chase from East Honolulu to Kalakaua Avenue.
Vanic and Alm, through spokespeople, declined to comment on the charges or detail what crimes the occupants of the stolen car Sykap was driving are accused of.
Public testimony submitted to the commission called for more transparency and the creation of a Community Advisory Committee to integrate the perspective, voices, concerns, and considerations of community members into the police chief hiring process.
“I’d like to express my support for the establishment of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to help advise the Honolulu Police Commission on its selection of HPD’s next Chief. It’s clear from widespread public sentiment over recent police shooting deaths; HPD’s handling of these cases; and the heightened scrutiny of recent nominees to this Commission, the public has lost its confidence in the integrity of HPD,” said Rebecca “Becky” Gardner, a Honolulu attorney, who testified as an individual before the police commission Wednesday.
Briana Kawata said she appreciates the police commission’s commitment to ensuring community involvement in the search for the next police chief.
“I am writing to support the recommendation to create a Community Advisory Committee. I am a proponent of transparency and open community dialogue with our police department and believe that including the CAC in the hiring process will ensure the new police chief is willing to uphold these values during their HPD tenure. The CAC would add fresh ideas and ensure community considerations are represented. HPC has indicated their commitment to understand and integrate the concerns and considerations of our diverse community,” said Kawata, a Kapolei resident.
Nicholas Schlapak, SHOPO Honolulu Chapter chairman and a patrol officer, testified on a different transparency issue when he asked commissioner Doug Chin to stop commenting publicly and offering opinions to news media about police shootings because it represents a conflict of interest.
“Mr. Chin has provided public comments on recent officer involved incidents — incidents that have not been fully adjudicated, either criminally by the justice system or administratively by HPD. For an active commissioner to make such public comments calls into question the sincerity and motivation for that person to do the job of commissioner, and casts doubt on the ability of the commissioner to fairly and impartially make decisions about the future of officers’ careers,” said Schlapak, testifying before the committee. “Mr. Chin has publicly displayed a glaring conflict of interest on his part. It has now become extremely difficult for me, as the Honolulu Chapter Chairman, to convince officers that the police commission can conduct a fair review into an officer complaint. Also concerning is that I cannot justify to Officers why there has been no attempt by the remaining members of the commission to address this issue of conflict of interest by Mr. Chin.”
Commission Chairwoman Shannon L. Alivado declined comment on SHOPO’s request. Commissioner Chin said his boundary up to now has been to not comment on matters before the commission.
“The officer-involved shootings of Iremamber Sykap have never been brought before the Commission for disciplinary action. Since they are being criminally prosecuted, I doubt they ever will. If it ever does come up, out of respect for today’s testimony, I will recuse myself,” he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.