EXCLUSIVE: HPD wants to fire sergeant caught fighting on video

EXCLUSIVE: HPD wants to fire sergeant caught fighting on video
Published: Oct. 9, 2015 at 9:44 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 10, 2015 at 12:24 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha wants to fire the veteran police officer whose fight with his girlfriend was caught on video last fall, prompting community outrage, sources told Hawaii News Now.

But, sources said, the officer is not being fired for assaulting or abusing his girlfriend.

Because of shocking video of the fight, the case sparked criticism of the Honolulu Police Department from people who felt HPD wasn't taking domestic violence seriously, especially involving one of its own.

Sgt. Darren Cachola, a 19-year HPD veteran, was caught on surveillance video Sept. 9, 2014, fighting with his girlfriend both inside and outside of Kuni's Restaurant in Waipahu.

The woman later said she and Cachola were just playing around because they like to do mixed martial arts for exercise; she said he was not assaulting her.

The girlfriend later testified on his behalf before a Circuit Court grand jury, which ultimately did not charge him with any crime.

Sources said Kealoha has recommended Cachola be fired, and the officer was served with termination papers this week, setting off what could be a lengthy firing process.

Sources said the department is not firing Cachola for abuse, but instead for failing to meet departmental standards and for unprofessional behavior.

Nanci Kreidman, chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center, said the termination sends a message. "I think clearly, the officer did not meet professional standards and doesn't deserve to carry a badge or a gun," she said.

City Council member Carol Fukunaga, who introduced the legislation that led to the creation of a Domestic Violence Response Task Force after the incident, had a similar reaction.

"The encouraging part is that the department is taking action to respond to community concerns about this incident," Fukunaga said.

Cachola will remain at HPD -- with his police powers removed and on a desk job – and his lawyer said he will appeal the firing, a process that could take weeks or months.

Attorney Howard Luke told Hawaii News Now, "Sgt. Cachola strongly disagrees that there is any basis for termination."

If his internal appeal is not successful and he is ultimately fired, Cachola and the police union are expected to file a grievance to try to get his job back. The case could take as much as a year to go through an arbitration process.

Experts in police discipline said Cachola has a chance of keeping his job, because when an officer is fired for "unprofessional behavior," that's subject to interpretation and could very well be overturned by an arbitrator. If that happens, Cachola would be re-hired with back pay and all benefits restored.

Reached for comment, an HPD spokeswoman said, "We cannot comment on disciplinary matters."

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