Category Archives: Police

Discussion of depleted uranium hazard prompts “disorderly conduct” complaint

Hawaii County police this week read longtime peace activist Jim Albertini his rights prior to questioning him about a disorderly conduct complaint filed by a Hilo charter school.

The complaint was made by the principal and secretary of Connections Public Charter School, who reportedly were “alarmed” by a telephone call last week from Albertini, according to Albertini’s account of what he was told during questioning by the police.

Albertini first learned of the complaint on Monday, when he was contacted by a Hilo Police Officer C. Sugimoto. He voluntarily appeared at the Hilo Police Station the following day for questioning.

“Officer Sugimoto first read me my rights and I signed a consent form to be questioned. Officer Sugimoto then told me that I was being investigated on a possible “Disorderly Conduct” complaint filed by Connections Public Charter School (PCS) Principal John Thatcher and the school secretary, Candy Alverado,” Albertini later reported.

The complaint was apparently prompted by Albertini’s telephone call to the school last Friday, during which he requested the email addresses of teachers who took their students to an April 20, 2017 Earth Day event at the Pohakuloa Training Area, a public relations event sponsored by the U.S. Army.

Albertini and others have been calling public attention to the potential hazards posed by the previous us of depleted uranium during military training at Pohakuloa going back to the 1960s. They contend that conventional radiation monitoring does not adequately protect the public from the health effects of potential inhalation of microscopic particles in dust or smoke created by weapons training during military maneuvers.

Albertini said he spoke with Alvarado during his call to the school last week, “and explained his concern to get information to teachers and parents of students about the dangers of inhaling Depleted Uranium (DU) oxide dust particles possibly being dispersed by heavy artillery live fire which was taking place at Pohakuloa on April 20th.”

“Ms. Alverado was very pleasant and gave me the email addresses of two teachers plus the bus driver who went to Pohakuloa Earth Day events,” Albertini said.

According to state law:

§711-1101 Disorderly conduct. (1) A person commits the offense of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause physical inconvenience or alarm by a member or members of the public, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, the person:

(a) Engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior; or

(b) Makes unreasonable noise; or

(c) Subjects another person to offensively coarse behavior or abusive language which is likely to provoke a violent response; or

(d) Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which is not performed under any authorized license or permit; or

(e) Impedes or obstructs, for the purpose of begging or soliciting alms, any person in any public place or in any place open to the public.

It’s difficult to see that Albertini’s contact with the school secretary by phone, or subsequent email addressed to others, could possibly be construed as disorderly conduct as defined by law.

A Hawaii Supreme Court decision in February 2017 narrowed the application of the law.

In that decision, the court ruled disorderly conduct “is limited to conduct which is itself disorderly,” and “the offense requires that the defendant engaged in fighting, threatening, or violent or tumultuous behavior.”

Clearly, Albertini’s conduct included nothing of that sort. So why did the police take action on the school’s complaint in a manner that appears aimed at discouraging free speech and open discussion of a controversial but important matter? The police department should be held to account on this.

A hollow ethics threat by former HPD Chief Kealoha

Civil Beat reports that an attorney representing former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha has demanded Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan recuse herself from taking part in the deliberations on whether the city should pay to Kealoha’s legal bills relating to possible federal charges.

“It is clear from her past conduct that she cannot be neutral or unbiased in this matter,” attorney Kevin Sumida wrote in a letter to the commission.

Sumida threatened to file an ethics complaint against Sheehan and the commission if she does not step aside (Civil Beat: “Kealoha Threatens Police Commissioner With Ethics Complaint”).

Apparently the evidence of “bias” is that Sheehan previously voted against positions favored by Kealoha.

This certainly sounds like a very empty threat aimed simply at clouding the public’s understanding of what’s going on.

Frankly, a quick look at the applicable provisions of the city’s ethics law suggests there are no grounds for the threatened complaint.

The ethics provisions are found in Article XI of the Revised Charter of Honolulu.

First, there are provisions prohibiting conflicts of interest, including soliciting or accepting gifts intended to influence official decisions, having financial or business interests that conflict with an official’s public duties, or accepting pay from third parties for doing one’s city job.

None of those appear to apply.

Then there is a separate provision for “fair and equal treatment,” which provides:

Elected or appointed officers or employees shall not use their official positions to secure or grant special consideration, treatment, advantage, privilege or exemption to themselves or any person beyond that which is available to every other person.

It’s hard to see that being critical of the former chief would fall under this law.

So it seems to me the commission has proceeded properly by asking Sumida to detail his “bias” complaint, presumably with some objective evidence, so that it can be duly considered.

In the meantime, the public shouldn’t be confused by all the smoke and mirrors.

Thursday evening with Civil Beat and Common Cause, & more

Civil Beat and Common Cause are hosting an event this week that may interest some readers of this blog.

Civil Cafe: Legislative Session – What Can I Do?
Thursday, January 26, 5:30-7 p.m.
The Manifest
32 North Hotel Street | Honolulu, Hawaii 96817

Civic engagement begins with understanding process. But, many of us wonder where do we even begin? How can average citizens get involved in politics and make our voices heard?

This free public panel, presented in partnership with Common Cause, aims to educate and encourage citizen participation in lawmaking. Through an interactive discussion, guest speakers will walk us through the legislative process and provide actionable steps to make positive change in our community.

Panelists include:

Chad Blair, Civil Beat
Janet Mason, League of Women Voters
Corie Tanida, Common Cause
Keanu Young, Public Access Room

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP in advance here.

And while mentioning Civil Beat, I forgot to link to my CB column last week:

Ian Lind: HPD Needs To Stop Shooting At Cars

This column makes the point that the Honolulu Police Department has a terrible record of multiple incidents in which officers shoot at suspects who are attempting to flee in order to avoid arrest. Nationally, police departments are adopting policies that prohibit officers from shooting in such situations unless the driver is threatening to use force other than their vehicle. In other words, if they are threatening the officer or someone else with a weapon, responding with deadly force may be appropriate, depending on the circumstances. Otherwise, officers are told to move out of the way rather than shooting at the car.

Anyway, the column is there for your reading. And remember, Civil Beat has removed their paywall, so there’s no problem gaining access to this column and the other excellent reporting published there.

Series of search warrants in Kealoha probe

Hawaii News Now reporter Lynn Kawano got quite a scoop yesterday with its report that another search warrant had been served in the ongoing public corruption investigation involving the outgoing Honolulu Police Chief and his wife (“FBI raids second city building in police chief investigation“).

According to HNN, the FBI accessed a backup computer server that mirrors the Honolulu Police Department’s computer system. The server, located in the Frank F. Fasi Municipal Building, maintains copies of the HPD electronic files and images.

The search of the backup server came during the same week that the FBI served a similar warrant on the office Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, where Katherine Kealoha is a senior deputy, and a federal judge took possession of laptop computers used by Kealoha.

HNN quotes defense attorney Victor Bakke, who called the “unprecedented.”

Bakke also speculated that the series of search warrants indicates additional witnesses are now cooperating with authorities, describing additional details that are now being pursued.

The unusual investigation into the chief and his wife, a top city prosecutor, is finally starting to draw national attention. An Associated Press story by Jennifer Kelleher was picked up by ABC News and broke into broadcast and print news across the country (“FBI Serves Warrant at Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office“).

By the way, this morning’s online edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest newspaper, does not yet have a story on this latest search warrant executed at the city’s main municipal office building.