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HPD releases report about disciplinary actions

HILO, Hawai‘i — Two Hawai‘i Police Department (HPD) officers were fired in 2023 and nine — including one of the terminated officers — received suspensions ranging from one to 12 days.

That’s according to the department’s just-released annual disciplinary report to the Hawai‘i Legislature.

Police departments statewide are required to submit the annual reports, which describe suspensions and terminations for the prior year. Officers who break the rules are counseled or receive additional training or reprimands before the department resorts to suspensions.

“I can’t make any comparisons, because this report reflects my first year as chief,” said HPD Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz. “I have been told that this is the first time this report is one page.

“And we’re talking about a department that as of today is 421 sworn (officers). … So to have such a small number is promising, but at the same time, some of the things that are on here are severe, so we have to continue to remain vigilant and to make sure we have policies and procedures in place to … keep them as productive members of the department, serving the community.”

One of the officers discharged for misconduct last year was Mark Kaili Jr.

Kaili, then 31, and a 27-year-old acquaintance, Cody Kanahele, allegedly entered a Na‘alehu home, both reportedly wearing masks, and assaulted a 20-year-old male resident who police identified as Kanahele’s cousin. During the altercation, the victim’s grandfather intervened and in the process unmasked one of the suspects, later identified as Kaili, who was off-duty during the alleged incident.

Prosecutors were notified, and Kaili and Kanahele were both charged with first-degree burglary, a Class B felony carrying a potential 10-year prison term, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

Kanahele pleaded no contest to the charges on Jan. 12 and was sentenced to 30 days in jail with all but one day — which he had served prior to his initial court appearance — suspended. Kanahele also was granted a deferred acceptance of his plea, which means if he stays out of trouble with the law for a year, the conviction will be erased from his criminal record.

Kaili pleaded not guilty and has a court date scheduled for March 1. In addition, he has a grievance pending regarding his dismissal from the force.

The other officer discharged by HPD is Aaron Abalos, for allegedly committing a criminal act. He also was suspended for four days, the report states.

The alleged act isn’t specified in the report, and he has not been arrested or charged. According to the report, however, prosecutors have been notified about this case.

In a separate incident, Abalos is alleged to have exposed himself in public, for which he was suspended a day. Prosecutors weren’t notified.

Abalos is in binding arbitration — the final step of the grievance process — regarding both allegations.

The annual report contains no incidents of malicious use of force, cowardice or use of drugs/narcotics. There is one alleged incident of maltreatment of a prisoner.

Officer Lawrence Kobayashi is alleged to have struck a woman who was handcuffed and in police custody. He received a one-day suspension, and prosecutors weren’t notified. The disposition of his case is final, according to the report.

The only other case in which prosecutors have been notified, the report states, is that of Officer Danton Zimmermann, who allegedly committed an unspecified criminal act and “failed to record the entire event” on his body-worn camera. He received a five-day suspension and filed a grievance, which is pending.

The two longest suspensions, 12 and 11 days, respectively, were for Officers Levi Comilla and Lauren Pacheco. Both allegedly violated body-cam and pursuit policies and were allegedly untruthful about the incidents. Both are in the grievance process.

The other suspensions, all of which are pending grievances or arbitration, are:

w Officer Michael Rutkowski: four days for alleged failure to comply with report-writing procedures.

w Officer Justin Gaspar: three days in an incident in which a citizen complained about two officers forcibly entering her apartment, with one using foul language. Gaspar resigned, and his resignation is being held in abeyance, the report states.

w Lt. Paul Kim: two days for allegedly failing to report for duty and failing to notify his supervisor of his absence.

w Detective/Sgt. Matthew Kaaihue: two days for alleged failure to comply with evidence procedures.

“The police and law enforcement officers in the state are the only group of civil service employees who are mandated by the Legislature to have disciplinary records turned over,” Moszkowicz said. “And it’s a little contradictory that the names of the employees be made public for this type of reporting before the grievance and arbitration procedure is done.”

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Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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