HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four Honolulu police officers have been stripped of their badges and guns and are facing a federal investigation for allegedly forcing a homeless man to lick a urinal in a public restroom.
"If true, these allegations violate the core values of the HPD," said Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, in a hastily-called news conference on Friday afternoon. "Our officers are sworn to uphold the rights of all persons. Personally, I am appalled at the behavior."
She said the officers have from three to 16 years of service. Their identities haven't been released but they are all assigned to District 1, which covers most of Urban Honolulu.
The four officers each had their police powers revoked and are on desk duty, pending the outcome of the investigation.
The alleged incident occurred inside a public restroom near Keeaumoku and Sheridan Streets about 2 p.m. Sunday. The officers were called to the area after a trespassing complaint.
A fifth responding officer was the one who notified command.
"There was another officer who was there initially then had left to go outside and was unaware of what was going on," said Ballard.
"That officer should be commended," said Honolulu Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan. "As a member of the public, I thank him or her from the bottom of my heart. This is the kind of stuff we need to continue to do at HPD to maintain the highest level of integrity there."
The investigation comes as the Honolulu Police Department is seeking to rebuild the public's trust in the wake of indictments of its former chief and several former police officers as part of a massive corruption investigation.
Ballard said once her administration learned about the incident, they contacted the FBI because the case involves the abuse of police powers by multiple officers. Officers also canvassed the area to search the victim, who was eventually found.
"Our officers are sworn to uphold the right of all persons and I expect every officer to treat every member of the public fairly and with respect," said Ballard.
In a statement Friday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell lauded Ballard's decision to place the four officers on leave and contact the FBI.
"Although these officers are presumed innocent, we need an independent agency to investigate exactly what occurred and whether these officers engaged in civil rights abuses," he said, in a statement. "Chief Ballard has promised to transform the Honolulu Police Department from a warrior mentality to a guardian mentality, and this is an approach to community policing that I wholeheartedly support."
"A society is measured by how we treat our most vulnerable members, so it's especially heartbreaking that officers would allegedly do this to a person who's already struggling with issues such as homelessness," added Sheehan.
Sheehan said the police commission will look further into the incident and decide next week if they will launch an investigation of their own.