Taxi Driver Background Checks Come Under Question

Sex assault suspect Adrian Cohen appears in court Wednesday.
Sex assault suspect Adrian Cohen appears in court Wednesday.
Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou
Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The cabbie driving you around could be a former prisoner. To be licensed as a taxi driver, people need to be law-abiding for the two-year period before they apply. And in Adrian Cohen's case, even that wasn't necessary.

Judy Huihui and her daughter grab their groceries, and head for a bus stop. They walk right past a taxi stand, a day after police charged a cab driver with sexually assaulting a female passenger.

"Very shocked, very surprised," Huihui said. "It makes you stop and think."

But how did Adrian Cohen get his taxi driver's certificate to begin with?

The city says a person who wants to become a cabbie must be free of convictions within two years of the application. So Cohen's prostitution conviction in January 2005 should've made him ineligible.

"This should have never happened," Honolulu city council member Charles Djou said. "The laws are clearly on the books. It looks like somebody dropped the ball somewhere. We need to take a look at it to make sure that we don't have people slipping through the cracks like this."

The Honolulu Police Department conducts criminal background checks for the city Licensing Division. Police now admit they made a mistake.

"It appears that an error was made by our Records Division, and the form should have reflected (Cohen's) conviction," Michelle Yu, Honolulu Police Department, said. "We believe this is an isolated incident. We have begun reviewing the verification process, and will be following up with additional staff training."

Huihui doesn't own a car. She says she'll hop into a taxi if she needs to.

"I just get in a cab and hope I get where I want to go," she said.

City council member Charles Djou is calling for a review of the licensing process.

Adrian Cohen next court appearance is set for Friday.