Exclusive: HPD sergeant facing demotion for confrontation caught on video

Exclusive: HPD sergeant facing demotion for confrontation caught on video
Published: Feb. 5, 2014 at 10:57 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2014 at 4:19 AM HST
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Larry Oliva (facing camera)
Larry Oliva (facing camera)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A veteran Honolulu police officer whose loud confrontation with a man in front of police headquarters was caught on video last year is being disciplined, but won't lose his job, sources told Hawaii News Now.

Chris Smith posted a video posted on YouTube back in March that he called "Making a complaint on a berserk police officer."  On the video, Smith said he was being harassed by HPD Sergeant Larry Oliva outside the main police station on Beretania Street as he tried to file a complaint against him.

"This officer here is trying to start a fight and all's I'm trying to do is talk to another officer," Smith said on the video, that Hawaii News Now first reported July 1.

Other police officers can be seen on the video repeatedly trying to get Oliva to back off.

The video showed a heated conversation between the two men:

Oliva: Why are you harassing people over there?

Smith: What the hell man.

Oliva: They're just doing their job. Why?

Smith: Serious! Why are you being like this?

Oliva: Why are you harassing people?

Smith: I'm not doing anything.  I'm asking you to stop.

Oliva: You're using the taxpayers' money for an ambulance and police....

Smith:  I'm asking you to stop. I'm asking you to stop.

Other officer: He stopped already.

The confrontation started when Oliva and Smith got into some kind of disagreement after Smith 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.

Oliva, 28-year police veteran, was not fired because of the incident. Instead, sources said, HPD managers want to demote him one rank from sergeant to corporal and suspend him without pay for about ten days.

But that's far from final, because sources said Oliva is appealing that discipline, a process that could take months or even years.

Brian Brazier is the attorney for the man who took the video and says Oliva should lose his job.

"I don't think he's somebody that really needs to be on the streets.  I've had interactions with him myself and he's assaulted me personally. And the purpose of our police department seems to be and should be to protect and serve.  And I don't think he does a very good job at either one of those," Brazier told Hawaii News Now Wednesday.

In a separate incident several years ago, Oliva was fired from the force for assaulting a male prisoner who he had arrested shortly after the man was released from the cellblock at police headquarters.

But police union officials said Oliva challenged his firing in the previous case and got his job back.

"There were mitigating circumstances that led up that have not been disclosed as to what led to the termination," said Tenari Maafala when Hawaii News Now first reported the story July 1.  Maafala is the president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the union that represents about 1,900 police officers. Maafala did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday.

An HPD spokeswoman confirmed an internal investigation into the incident but said the department cannot comment on disciplinary action.

HPD will only disclose if an officer has been fired and will only do that after the appeals process is completed.

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