Few police violations reported

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HILO — Hawaii County police misconduct continues to remain relatively low, with two officers fired and eight others suspended without pay last year, according to an annual report released Thursday.

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HILO — Hawaii County police misconduct continues to remain relatively low, with two officers fired and eight others suspended without pay last year, according to an annual report released Thursday.

The 2016 misconduct compares to the same number of suspensions and firings in 2015, and three firings and 17 suspensions in 2014, a small fraction of the approximately 450 sworn officers in the department.

“We’re not doing anything different, but we’re continuing to hold our officers to that high standard,” Deputy Chief Kenneth Bugado said Friday.

Officers who break the rules are counseled or receive additional training or reprimands before the department resorts to suspensions.

Police departments throughout the state are required to submit annual reports to the Legislature describing suspensions and terminations for the prior year. Disciplined officers’ names are confidential under state law.

One officer was fired after he modified the exhaust system of a vehicle subsidized by the county, and then lied about it to a superior officer inspecting his vehicle. A grievance action is still pending in the case.

The other officer was fired after he was arrested for second-degree assault while off-duty. The officer confronted a neighbor and threw him to the ground causing significant facial injuries, according to the misconduct report that did not name the officer.

The officer, Jamie L. Harper, was acquitted of the charge in November after Kona Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra determined after a bench trial that Harper suffered from a physical or mental disease, disorder or defect that resulted in him not having the capacity to have the particular state of mind for the charge filed.

Both Harper and his 72-year-old neighbor in the Kalanikai condominium complex in Kailua-Kona were hospitalized after the fight.

The police misconduct report lists the status of the case as grievance pending. Harper’s attorney, Michael Schlueter, had said late last year he also was working with the Civil Rights Commission and considering legal action against the county for its treatment of Harper. Schlueter could not be reached for an update by press time Friday.

Of the unpaid suspensions, one officer was suspended 11 days for untruthfully calling in sick, feigning illness, and leaving the island for a matter not related to department business.

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An officer was suspended a total of six days for two violations of uniform regulation, personal appearance and approved attire general orders, as was an officer who failed to conform with report writing procedures and preliminary investigation procedures. Another officer was suspended five days for violating report writing procedures.

Three-day suspensions went to other officers for violating report writing procedures and not submitting documents in a timely manner. One officer got a one-day suspension for failing to turn in evidence before the end of the work shift, and another for not having sufficient official mileage to draw fuel.

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