Lawmakers join the fight for more details on HPD officer's firing

Updated: Sep. 1, 2017 at 6:58 PM HST
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State lawmakers are joining the fight for more information about the investigation into former Honolulu Police Sergeant Darren Cachola, who was fired for fighting with his girlfriend inside a Waipahu restaurant in 2014. 

The incident was captured on surveillance video, and Cachola was relieved of duty after the video was released to the public.

Members of the Women's Legislative Caucus delivered a letter this week to top police officials, notifying HPD Acting Chief Cary Okimoto that they want to evaluate how the department handled the veteran officers suspension, discharge, grievance and arbitration.

The letter is signed by Representatives Della Au Belatti and Lauren Matsumoto and Senators Rosalyn Baker and Laura Thielen.

“We held... an informational briefing at the legislature when this first happened, and there were a lot of questions about HPD policies and procedures," says Thielen.

The letter says "the disclosure of records is appropriate because the public interest substantially outweighs Sgt. Cahola's privacy interest" and says "transparency is paramount for the public's confidence in the integrity and credibility of HPD."

Honolulu Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan sent a similar letter last week.

"Make them aware that the public has a right to know and that, at least, I’m going to be asking for this information. I want to know,” said Sheehan.

Cachola has been trying to get his job back since his termination, and sources say he may be entitled to it, claiming former HPD leaders might not have followed proper termination procedures.

Acting Chief Okimoto is reportedly refusing to let Cachola return, especially after another incident this year, when his wife called police saying he was choking her. 

Cachola was not arrested in either case. Both sides headed into arbitration last week. 

"In termination-type cases, it goes before the arbitrator, a neutral arbitrator,” says Tenari Maafala, president of the state's police union. “Both parties, the union and the employers, get to select from a list that is provided by the Hawaii Labor Relations Board."

The lawmakers say the public should be allowed to review the entire process after it’s complete.

"Under the law, if the termination is upheld, there is no right to privacy,” says Thielen. "In that case, the records should be handed over. The only question is, if the termination is overturned, then does the public have a right to know given the public interest in this incident."

The women's legislative caucus says the public also has a right to know details if a tax-payer funded settlement is reached, which sources say, could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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