HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department has begun an internal affairs investigation into the actions of a veteran police officer who was caught on video in a confrontation with a man trying to file a complaint against him.
The police union confirmed the officer had been previously fired by HPD in another incident but regained his job.
Some HPD managers complain they fire or suspend misbehaving officers only to have their discipline overturned. They are frustrated because the officers are returned to their jobs with back pay, said the HPD supervisors, who declined to be identified. But the police union said HPD is to blame for shoddy investigations of its own officers.
A video on YouTube that's dated March of this year shows HPD Sgt. Larry Oliva, a 28-year police veteran, in a heated confrontation with a man who was trying to file a complaint against him for an incident that happened earlier that day. The video is called "Making a complaint on a berserk police officer."
"This officer here is trying to start a fight and all's I'm trying to do is talk to another officer," yelled the man on the video that showed an angry Oliva yelling at him.
You can see other officers trying to get Oliva to back off during the confrontation, which happened on Beretania Street in front of police headquarters in the afternoon.
The video showed a heated conversation between the two men:
Officer: Why are you harassing people over there?
Man with video: What the hell man.
Officer: They're just doing their job. Why?
Man with video: Serious! Why are you being like this?
Officer: Why are you harassing people?
Man with video: I'm not doing anything. I'm asking you to stop.
Officer: You're using the taxpayers' money for an ambulance and police....
Man with video: I'm asking you to stop. I'm asking you to stop.
Other officer: He stopped already.
Police sources said Oliva was fired from the force a few years ago for assaulting a male prisoner shortly after he was released from the cellblock at police headquarters. Oliva had arrested the man earlier on his shift, a source said.
But the police union confirmed Oliva challenged his firing and got his job back.
"There were mitigating circumstances that led up that has not been disclosed as to what led to the termination," said Tenari Maafala, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police officers, the union that represents about 1,900 HPD officers. Maafala said he could not release details of the case to protect the privacy of Oliva and the man he was accused of assaulting.
Maafala said HPD sometimes fails to conduct fair investigations of its officers or violates their rights in the disciplinary process.
"What people don't see is the circumstances that led up to the termination and also how the investigation was conducted. If the investigation obviously was subjective, there's a lot of loopholes there," Maafala added.
"They (HPD) have to do complete investigations. Thorough and complete investigations. Unbiased. Just let the facts prove itself. And uncover every bit of stone. Not just the one based on the allegation of the complainant," Maafala said.
The confrontation caught on video started after the sergeant and the man got into some kind of disagreement after the man was trying to help move the car of a (de)Occupy protester at Thomas Square before it got towed during rush hour. It's unclear from the video what happened in that Thomas Square incident.
But the video shot in front of HPD shows Oliva re-approaching the man who the officer said was falsifying a complaint even after his fellow officers tried to get him to back off.
Man with video: No! You are still chasing me down. Please stop.
Officer: You are falsifying a police report.
Man with video: Please tell him to back off and get away from me.
Maafala, who hadn't seen the video, said, "Behind every badge is a human being. And we are susceptible to making mistakes."
"SHOPO is not a get out of disciplinary free card. And we don't condone criminal acts," Maafala added.
An HPD statement released about the case that said, "HPD takes all complaints seriously. Complaints are thoroughly investigated, and the appropriate disciplinary action is taken."
Oliva is assigned to the patrol division in HPD's District 1, which covers downtown Honolulu and Chinatown, an HPD spokeswoman said. He remains on full duty and his police duties have not been restricted during the internal affairs investigation, the spokeswoman said.