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Court to hear arguments over use of police during TMT protests

The Hawaii Supreme Court will hear arguments next month over whether the county overstepped its bounds by requesting neighbor islands’ police forces to assist in responding to the 2019 Thirty Meter Telescope protest.

In July 2019, Hawaii County Police Chief Paul Ferreira requested that Honolulu and Maui police departments send officers to assist Big Island officers in controlling protesters who had occupied the Maunakea Access Road in opposition to the planned construction of TMT. Approximately 60 Honolulu officers and an unknown number of Maui officers provided support on Maunakea.

Shortly thereafter, Big Island resident E. Kalani Flores filed a lawsuit against Ferreira, then-Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard and then-Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu, arguing that his rights to observe Native Hawaiian cultural practices on Maunakea were violated by the police presence.

In particular, Flores argued that the Honolulu and MPD officers’ presence on Hawaii Island violated a state statute governing the powers of police departments outside of their home counties.

According to that statute, a police chief can operate on a neighboring island if doing so is required in the pursuit of an investigation that commenced within that chief’s jurisdiction, and if the police chief on the neighboring island agrees to it — Flores argued that the former condition was not met.

Flores’ lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality, but was appealed and went before the state Intermediate Court of Appeals, which ruled in January in favor of the police chiefs.

However, the case has been appealed again and will now be heard by the state Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the case will be heard Aug. 26.

“I look forward to presenting my client’s case, and I’m hopeful that they rule in my client’s favor,” said Flores’ attorney, Peter Olson. Olson and Flores declined to comment further.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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