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HPD faces new pressure to restrict powers of commander accused of harassment, retaliation

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 6:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department is facing new pressure to restrict the powers of a commander accused of bullying, sexual harassment and retaliation.

State Senate Minority Leader Kurt Fevella is also disputing statements made by HPD Interim Chief Rade Vanic at a Honolulu Police Commission meeting earlier this month. In a letter dated Oct. 13, Fevella reiterated that he wants the commission to work with Vanic to restrict the police authority of Major Stephen Gerona.

Gerona is the subject of multiple officer complaints for alleged harassment, sexual harassment, retaliation and for creating a hostile work environment.

Vanic told commissioners that these allegations, while serious, do not qualify for ROPA.

Fevella disputes that in his letter saying part of the ROPA policy also states an “administrative investigation of a serious conduct violation” can warrant the change in status.

Instead of having his powers restricted, Gerona was reassigned from the high-profile Criminal Investigations Division to the Legislative Liaison Office, where he does not supervise any officers.

Fevella said allowing Gerona to remain at work as a major gives him authority over others.

“At least suspend him from his powers now, furthering more investigation. Because right now, by having those powers, he’s intimidating a lot of people, a lot of people don’t want to come out and speak,” Fevella said.

At the commission meeting, Vanic also denied that Gerona was given a temporary promotion. He was the acting assistant chief in August and was supposed to be in that position for October, too.

The positions were part of a rotation of three majors after an assistant chief retired in the summer.

Vanic insisted to the commissioners that this was not a promotion. But in a statement to Hawaii News Now, the department said the temporary movement does come with higher pay and more authority.

This is the second letter Fevella has written since a Hawaii News Now report aired on Sept. 13 in which four current HPD officers spoke about the complaints they filed against the city and HPD, detailing the role Gerona played in those grievances. The officers said command staff was protecting Gerona and allowed his conduct to continue despite numerous complaints and previous lawsuits that he was part of.

Two lawsuits settled for a total of $1.6 million.

Police commission Chair Shannon Alivado confirmed the agency received Fevella’s most recent letter, but said due to the lawsuit and nature of complaints not a lot of details could be provided to the public.

She did point out that Vanic is now seeking an independent investigation by the city’s Human Resources Division. That request was made after the media attention.

“(Vanic) is awaiting HR’s response and we look forward to any update that Chief Vanic can give us at Wednesday’s meeting,” said Alivado.

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