On Thursday, August 18th, a preliminary hearing on whether three Honolulu Police Officers should be tried for murder, in the case of the shooting of Mr. Iraemember Sykap, ended when the judge ruled there was no compelling evidence to try the three officers.
The official term of rejection was “no probable cause”.
This ruling was made after the Honolulu City’s Prosecuting Attorney, the newly elected Steven Alm, put evidence of this in front of a grand jury, of which they came back with a “no bill” or rejected indicting the officers.
Soon after the second ruling, there was a great amount of relief to those who were supporting the officers, including members of the State of Hawai‘i Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) and members of a police support group “Back Da Blue Hawai‘i” led by Wayne Kaiwi, and “Stolen Stuff Hawai‘i” led by Michael Kitchens. On Facebook and other social media outlets, you could see the amount of work being done by all the supporting groups to bring people out and make a statement every single day the officers went into court for a hearing.
Also, soon after the ruling, a question came up as to whether Alm would turn around, and try again to get an indictment of the officers either through another grand jury or an appeal to Judge William Domingo’s ruling. It was one of the last “lingering questions” of a saga whose main issues were getting tied up for an ending.
It turns out, despite making a statement that his office would continue to do right rather than what is easy or popular to the people, Alm announced to his office that efforts to hold the officers accountable were at an end.
In other words, he is saying that “we made a good effort, we hold our heads up high, but we ain’t going to die on this hill”.
Considering that he is a newly minted prosecutor for the City, the fact that he would continue to fight this fight when this game is more about the long term than the single win is probably the best move he made.
It does not mean, from this humble writer’s perspective, that he was wrong about even looking into the shooting, let alone filing of charges. Yes, it seems to some in the support police community that even thinking about examining, let alone filing charges, was a fools’ errand.
But at the end, and this is an important point, the people of Hawai‘i got to see what happened, and were given the opportunity to be informed about the nuances of the event that could have easily been filed away and buried. Perhaps for the future, if the prosecutor would like to pursue a case against police, he should skip the grand jury and go right to the filing of charges and having these preliminary hearings.
Then, maybe, we can all learn in this town what it means to police, what the police have to deal with when it comes to potential criminals, and the choices that they have to make in the milliseconds of an event. This reminds me, as a conclusion to this, of the Blue Bloods episode entitled “The Greater Good” from Season 7, Episode 1. In this scene, Detective Danny Reagan, played by Donny Wahlberg, describes the situation he was in when he shot a suspect, and why.
“So, I’m Wilder… and you guys are me. And we’re about this far apart. And you have your gun pointed at me, and I am standing in front of you with my hands behind my back, just like this. And it’s very quiet. And there’s nobody around, nobody except us two, standing here alone in this clearing. And you’re looking at me, the man who murdered, tortured and raped 22 innocent women… …who left them to rot on the ground… …with their hands crossed over their chest. And I tell you I got a gun behind my back. So you instruct me… to show you my hands. And I don’t comply. So you instruct me again. Keep your hands where I can see ’em! Only louder this time, to show you my hands. I said keep your hands where I can see ’em! And I don’t comply. I’ve told you I have a gun behind my back. You have no idea whether I do or I don’t. And then… bang! (jurors gasp) Now given that… …would you fire your weapon?”