Lawsuit alleges HPD officer abused power by arresting son’s school-aged ‘enemy’

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Updated: Oct. 26, 2020 at 4:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The parents of a 15-year-old boy who was arrested by a Honolulu police officer after getting into a fight with the officer’s son filed a lawsuit Monday, alleging that the officer acted in a retaliatory fashion and abused his police powers for personal gain.

In November 2018, the lawsuit says that the student was involved in a fight at Kalaheo High School with a classmate, the son of Honolulu police officer Kirk Uemura.

The next day, according to the lawsuit, Uemura ― in uniform and behind the wheel of his HPD patrol car ― arrived on campus, located the teen, searched him and placed him under arrest.

The boy, now 17, was allegedly transported to a police station, placed in leg shackles, fingerprinted and detained. Officers did not notify his parents about their son’s arrest until nearly an hour and a half later, the lawsuit alleges.

“What my son had to endure at the hands of the HPD was extremely traumatic and has had a massive negative impact on our son, our family, and our lives,” the boy’s mother, Jennifer Rivera, said in a statement. “These officers were bold and confident in retaliating against a 15-year-old child to exact revenge on behalf of an HPD officer’s son.”

In a statement late Monday afternoon, the Honolulu Police Department acknowledged they had conducted an investigation into the incident and revealed that Uemura, a 21-year veteran of the police force assigned to the Windward Oahu District, was disciplined earlier this year.

“That is literally all we know about HPD’s response to this pattern of constitutional violations that J.R. experienced. We don’t know what corrective action was taken,” said Jongwook Kim, staff attorney for the ACLU Hawaii."

The department did not reveal any of the findings of the investigation.

When asked whether there was a conflict of interest policy that prevented HPD officers from arresting or investigating cases involving their own family members, a spokesperson for the police department said: “Officers and civilian employees are expected to abide by the department’s standards of conduct.”

In addition to Uemura and the Honolulu Police Department, the lawsuit also names Sgt. Artie Kendall ― the officer who was in charge of the police station where the boy was brought to after his arrest ― as a defendant.

When asked why Uemura was allowed to arrest ‘his own son’s enemy,’ the lawsuit claims that Sgt. Kendall pointed to his badge and replied: "That’s what gives him the right to do what he did.”

Sgt. Kendall, like Uemura, was disciplined by the department, an HPD spokesperson said, although the manner of discipline was not disclosed. Kendall retired over the summer after 27 years with the department, the spokesperson said.

The plaintiffs in the case are asking the court to expunge any arrest records for Rivera and require HPD to enact policies that would prevent situations like his from happening to others.

The lawsuit also cited several other arrests in which officers allegedly abused their authority to serve their own interests.

That includes the case of former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha who along with his wife former Honolulu Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha conspired to frame her uncle Gerard Puana to bolster a civil lawsuit against Puana.

“We have probably the most corrupt police department in the country. Look, the previous police chief will go to prison next month when he’s sentenced," said attorney Eric Seitz, who represents Puana and the Riveras.

“There were between 30 and 50 police officers who were engaged in that case.”

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