Sheriff deputy whose DUI case sparked internal probe now suspended
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
An internal investigation that has already put the man in charge of the state’s sheriff division and his second-in-command on unpaid leave has also lead the suspension of between three and seven deputy sheriffs, Hawaii News Now has learned.
Sources said the deputy sheriff whose arrest for drunken driving nearly two years ago led to the investigation is one of those suspended.
State Sheriff Robin Nagamine and his first deputy Patrick Lee have been suspended without pay by the Department of Public Safety.
Nagamine told Hawaii News Now he plans to appeal the decision.
The other sheriffs deputies have been suspended for anywhere from one to 20 days, a source said.
Among them: Sheriff Deputy Patrick Lewis, the canine officer who got into an accident with his state vehicle just after 2 a.m. on October 2, 2013 and was arrested for drunk driving.
Sources said the suspensions and the investigation stem from the apparent mishandling of Lewis' DUI case.
While Lewis admitted to police that he had two glasses of wine before the accident with this state vehicle, his DUI case was postponed several times and a judge eventually dismissed the charge against him.
State Public Safety officials would only say the sheriffs employees are on "unspecified leave."
"It would appear that it's a significant investigation involving high-level personnel," said Hawaii News Now law enforcement expert Tommy Aiu, who spent 30 years in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and taught criminal justice at Chaminade University.
"It seems like the case is lingering longer than it should, I'm talking about the internal affairs case," Aiu added.
Public Safety officials said their internal affairs office waited until the DUI case against Lewis concluded, but Aiu said an internal investigation doesn't have to wait for the outcome of a criminal case against an employee.
"If it lingers too long, officers lose faith in the system," Aiu said.
Even state Public Safety managers privately describe some of the six-person internal affairs investigators who work out the department headquarters as “inept” and guilty of conducting shoddy investigations.
“There are so many holes in their investigations, it’s incredible,” said one veteran supervisor in the department.
Sources said arbitration cases have discredited several internal affairs investigations because investigators left out facts and based their findings on innuendo.
The Public Safety department disagreed, releasing a statement that said, "Their investigations are of the highest standard and we stand by the job they do for the department."
Aiu said, "An internal investigator has to have the requisite experience to conduct fair and impartial investigations that are free of innuendo, conjecture and speculation."
Two of Public Safety's six internal investigators have corrections backgrounds and didn't come through the ranks as law enforcement officers.
But officials said a majority of them -- the other four -- have law enforcement backgrounds.
“Some investigators don’t even know basic law enforcement procedure, or the difference between a preponderance of evidence and proving something beyond a reasonable doubt,” said the veteran supervisor who is critical of internal affairs staff.