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HPD declines to reassign embattled commander despite calls from state leaders

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 6:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers are urging the Honolulu Police Department to take action against a commander accused of bullying subordinates.

But for now, HPD says they’re not making any changes to command staff.

State Sen. Kurt Fevella told Hawaii News Now that he sent letters to Honolulu’s mayor and the police commission, among others, urging them to take action against Honolulu Police Major Stephen Gerona.

“Men in blue and women (are) terrified of this man. Nobody should have that kind of working conditions ever,” said Fevella, the Senate minority leader.

“(Gerona’s) being promoted within the ranks and being protected by other people higher up, that is a sad time in Hawaii, that we going have our law enforcement agency having this kind of leadership.”

Gerona was given a temporary promotion recently to acting assistant chief.

That’s despite at least a dozen complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed by Honolulu police officers.

Some of those officers spoke exclusively with Hawaii News Now earlier this month regarding their treatment by Gerona and those directly under him.

There is also an active lawsuit filed by Detective Maile Rego, who works for Gerona in the Criminal Investigations Division.

“I’m afraid of him,” said Rego, “Knowing his reputation. It’s intimidating and it’s especially intimidating knowing if you speak up, nothing will be done.”

State Sen. Karl Rhoads, of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it’s concerning that HPD would want to promote Gerona, even temporarily, given the outstanding complaints.

“There were a number of serious allegations made against him,” Rhoads said.

HPD released this statement on the issue:

Due to the confidential nature of the complaints, HPD is unable to provide further details. However, the department takes all allegations seriously and will take the appropriate action once the findings are complete. Until then, no changes to the CID command staff will be made.”

Rego, meanwhile, has been on leave since March. It became unpaid last month. The department told her she can return to her position at CID, but she would still have to work for Gerona.

Loretta Sheehan, former chair of the Honolulu Police Commission and an attorney, was surprised to hear that HPD would not reassign him while the investigations are ongoing.

“In these situations, you never want to re-victimize the victim and so it simply doesn’t make sense.”

The mayor declined to comment for this story, but his office said he did receive the letter from Fevella.

Police Commission Chair Shannon Alivado said in a statement that the body “takes allegations of officer retaliation and intimidation very seriously.”

Alivado said they will be discussing the allegations at the next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 6.

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