Over the past few weeks, starting on April 5, my birthday, there have been two events between residents of Oahu and Honolulu Police Officers that have taken up a lot of the news.
To briefly summarize, on April 5. Honolulu Police shot and killed a 16-year-old in a police interaction after he and the other young people in the car that was stolen and was used as a getaway car in several robberies in the Kaimuki and Moiliili neighborhoods of Honolulu. Police cornered the driver and his occupants on Kalakaua Ave. where the event occurred.
A few days later, police were called to a home In Liliha where Lindani Myeni, a 29-year old that was found entering another person’s home, was shot by police after Myeni attacked officers arriving at the scene. He injured one officer severe enough to break his jaw and, according to police cam footage, an attempt to stop Myeni by stun gun failed.
Both cases are still under investigation.
However, that little detail hasn’t stopped a whole swath of people in Hawaii to start questioning police actions. Of course, we should always be concerned when police shoot and kill suspects. But the fact is that in very “back the blue” supporting Honolulu, more messages against the HPD are now being heard at all levels of conversation – from the neighbor to neighbor talk to the media.
The comparison of stuff said now with another event in which, instead of suspect, two HPD officers died in the line of service on January 19, 2020, is quite striking.
For review, on that fateful day, two officers of HPD – Kaulike Kalama, 34, and Tiffany Victoria Enriquez, 38 – were shot to death by Jaroslav “Jarda” Hanel in an eviction action against him that went tragically wrong.
At the time of the officers’ deaths, the news and society at large were generally in support of the police, their actions, and shocked at the outcome. The moving tribute for officer Kalima in front of police headquarters on Beretania St. reminded all that an “end of watch” can come at a split second, and not just when they retire after a lifetime of service.
Now, it seems, the people of Honolulu are starting to forget about what officers go on the line to do – protect the public and provide guidance on law and order – and being replaced with questions about whether Honolulu Police officers acted irrationally during a critical time and – more underlying at this point – whether there were any racist intentions involved, especially with the Myent incident.
One thing that we do know in this society that whenever there is an incident like this, the first thing that any police department does – in varying levels of rigor – is to investigate the incident, look at the causes of it and determine whether there is any improvement needed for future events.
For both incidents, that investigation is occurring. One would think that there would be a reserving of judgment before declaring the incidents something other than a traffic stop and removal of someone who walked into someone else’s home.
But both the widow of Myent, the American Civil Liberties Union, and some in the media, have decided instead to use language that is more used to describe police actions on the continent, to both create a narrative of HPD, and direct public opinion in that way.
The narrative building and the public perception direction, in the humble opinion of this writer, needs to take a step back as the investigation unfolds. Keep in mind this is said because at the end of the day, right now, no one is aware of what the true story is. So if the whole point of this is to instill doubt in the Force, without real proof, that is deception.
That deception could eat away at the heart of HPD policing and remove the ability for it to stand behind the officers. like Kalama and Enriquez, went to work one day to help the community only for them to end their watch. Our community needs to let the investigation happen.
And then we can say whether or not the actions were justified.