HPD investigating whether supervisor bullied detective

HPD investigating whether supervisor bullied detective

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The suicide of a Honolulu police officer is dividing the department and has prompted an internal investigation.

Kyle Suemori, 42, shot himself on April 13 at his Waipahu home.

The 12-year veteran of the force had recently been promoted to detective and was assigned to the Domestic Violence unit. Fellow officers told Hawaii News Now he was having issues with the new assignment and with one of his supervisors.

Multiple police sources say the supervisor had a style of managing that many considered "old school," like a drill sergeant.

While that may have worked with some officers, for Detective Suemori, it was described by numerous witnesses as bullying.

"Workplace bullying is usually repeated kinds of conduct, whether it's verbal abuse, sometimes it can be workplace aggression," says Melissa Pavlicek of the Society of Human Resources Management.

"When I first got into law enforcement, it was very much paramilitary, and some departments are still like that," says Hawaii News Now Law Enforcement expert Tommy Aiu.

Aiu spent more than 30 years in law enforcement and says the culture of managing in a police department is changing, "It's become more of a friendly environment, to enhance the performance through performance evaluations."

Aiu says officers who are depressed do have options like in-house psychologists, chaplains and peer review, but most don't take advantage of those options unless prompted to by the department. It's unclear if the HPD administration knew about the issues Suemori was having.

The supervisor was transferred out of the Criminal Investigations Division and reassigned to patrol after the incident.

An Internal Affairs investigation has been launched to see if he violated department policy.

"How do you find that balance," says Waxer Tipton, who was a police chaplain for Maui County. He says the drill sergeant approach doesn't work for everyone. "How much is too much?"

While sources say he had complained about the conditions at work, it's unclear if Suemori suffered from other personal matters too. He did not leave suicide note. Tipton says it's usually a number of things that seem overwhelming.

"I have not seen one incident put anybody over the edge, you already have your own sense of self worth, or sense of self esteem or lack thereof ... and then the piling on," says Tipton.

Services for Kyle Suemori are set for Friday.

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