HPD takes action against 4 officers who accused commander of bullying, harassment

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 6:05 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 6, 2021 at 10:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department has taken action against four veteran police officers who accused a commander of bullying, sexual harassment and retaliation in a Hawaii News Now report last month.

The allegations against Major Stephen Gerona were discussed in a Honolulu Police Commission meeting Wednesday, during which interim HPD Police Chief Rade Vanic publicly addressed the issue for the first time.

All four officers have filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, naming Gerona. One of those officers also filed a lawsuit. And all say they are now facing further retaliation.

In an internal email obtained by Hawaii News Now, acting Deputy Chief Lisa Mann notifies other commanders of an order that the four officers be served a 384.

“A 384 is a notification in writing, so basically a warning that you have violated a policy,” Vanic told commissioners, insisting that it is not a form of discipline.

“It’s a notification you broke the rules, and notifying you that if you continue to break the rules, there could be further action against you,” he said.

Critics, however, say it looks like retaliation and intimidation.

“My first response is it’s really concerning,” said Joshua Wisch, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii district.

“Seeing the police department essentially doubling down and retaliating against people for speaking out is shocking,” Wisch said.

Attorney Victor Bakke agreed, saying this type of action could mean more damages in a lawsuit.

“Looks like it’s retaliation and that is absolutely the biggest problem for any organization when it comes to this kind of complaints,” he said.

Gerona was the head of the Criminal Investigations Division, a high profile unit in HPD, but was moved to the Legislative Liaison Office this past weekend.

The move came after another federal EEOC complaint for harassment and retaliation was filed last week by an officer who works under him.

Hawaii News Now knows of at least a dozen complaints or lawsuits filed by police officers that name Gerona.

Vanic said he has asked the city’s Human Resources Division to take over the investigations of Gerona. If that office declines, he told commissioners he would try to seek an outside agency to handle the complaints.

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