Outcry over secrecy surrounding termination of Honolulu police officer, possible pay off

Outcry over secrecy surrounding termination of Honolulu police officer, possible pay off
Updated: Aug. 21, 2017 at 7:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan sent a letter Monday to HPD's Acting Chief Cary Okimoto, saying the public has a right to know about the termination of Darren Cachola, a former sergeant, who is trying to get his job back.

The two page letter is stirring up another call for less secrecy at the Honolulu Police Department.

Sheehan is asking for all records related to the investigation saying "The public interest in knowing how HPD has handled the investigation, discipline, and dismissal of Sgt. Cachola is extraordinarily important."

The 19-year HPD veteran was fired after video surfaced of him fighting with his ex-girlfriend in a Waipahu Restaurant in 2014.  He has been trying to get his job back since, but earlier this year, his new wife called 9-1-1 saying he tried to strangle her.  Cachola was never arrested or charged in either case.

Sources say, HPD is refusing to let him return to the force and that could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars instead.

Both sides headed into arbitration last week.

"Whenever this is done, and its been going on for years now, three years. but whenever this is done," says Commissioner Sheehan, "I'm putting everyone on notice that I want to see the documents.  That they will not be destroyed."

Sheehan's letter requests Cachola's records within 30 days of a final decision.

"The citizens are entitled to know how their tax dollars are being spent.  Are they being spent prudently?  Are huge settlements being made that are undeserved?" says Sheehan.

When an officer is terminated, the records become public after all appeals are completed.

If a settlement deal is worked out to pay off the officer, the records are also public.

But if the officer gets his/her job back, the disciplinary records remain sealed.  Sheehan says, in this case, that shouldn't apply.

"If disciplinary hearings do not result in discharge, and the officer retains his or her 'significant privacy interest' the records nonetheless may be disclosed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the officer's privacy interest."

Sheehan's push is gaining momentum.  Members of the women's legislative caucus says they have Sheehan's letter and will be meeting to discuss possible options for the lawmakers to get involved.

The caucus took great interest in the Cachola case in 2014, even meeting with then Chief Louis Kealoha concerned that the department was not taking domestic violence issues seriously.

"When they see that the public is interested and the public cares and the public has a perspective, you have really no alternative but to listen and respond," says Nanci Kreidman, CEO of the Domestic Violence Action Center.

The department is concerned about information being leaked.  The day after a Hawaii News Now story about Cachola's appeal aired last week, Acting Chief Okimoto put out a memo to all officers reminding them about the secrecy of arbitration hearings.

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