Answers sought about fired cop

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The vice president of the state Senate said he plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session requiring all state and county law enforcement agencies to list in a database all officers fired or forced to resign from their agencies.

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The vice president of the state Senate said he plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session requiring all state and county law enforcement agencies to list in a database all officers fired or forced to resign from their agencies.

Sen. Will Espero, a Leeward Oahu Democrat, said the proposed legislation is in response to the arrest last week in Hilo of Ethan Ferguson, a 39-year-old state Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officer, for the alleged New Year’s Day sexual assault of a minor girl on a Hilo beach.

Civil Beat, a Honolulu online news outlet, reported Feb. 18, 2014, that Ferguson, a former Honolulu Police Department officer, “was fired in 2013 after he falsified records and lied to investigators about transporting a female runaway, who was underage.”

The website’s story said it obtained the information from HPD’s required annual misconduct report to the Legislature filed in December 2013. The news outlet reported it was unable to obtain more information about why Ferguson was fired because the department’s internal rules required it to shred his disciplinary files 30 months after its internal investigation was started.

“I’m still trying to find out what was the process (DLNR) used, how did they vet this individual, and how did we somehow miss this?” Espero said late Monday afternoon. “It’s rather disturbing, when you look at the articles out there, that this appears to be the same individual. All indications are pointing that way.

“Even if they missed him during the interview process, there was an article in 2014 that dealt with this same individual and transparency and disclosure of information. And it appears that DLNR missed that article, where they could have questioned Mr. Ferguson and asked him, ‘What was the situation?’”

Espero sent an email Monday to DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case about Ferguson, whom DLNR said was hired June 27, 2013.

“What type of background check was conducted on Ferguson prior to being hired? Was a phone call to HPD a part of the follow-up and background check? Did DLNR know of the firing from HPD and the reasons for termination? Did Ferguson lie on any of his hiring or application forms? If HPD was called, did HPD cooperate with DLNR knowing Ferguson was applying for a law enforcement job?” Espero asked Case in the email.

The email also questioned if DLNR had seen the 2014 Civil Beat article and, if so, why wasn’t Ferguson dismissed then.

“It looks like we’ve got a major problem, based on the information I read, and if this is the same individual, which it appears like, we messed up and we need to fix this problem so it doesn’t happen again,” Espero said.

Espero said he hadn’t heard from Case but noted the email was sent late Monday. A phone message late Monday afternoon to DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward was not returned in time for this story.

DLNR issued a written statement late Friday saying Ferguson was stripped of his police powers and was put on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of the felony criminal case.

DLNR also said it would cooperate with the Hawaii Police Department investigation and had, in addition, launched its own internal investigation.

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A check of court records turned up no criminal convictions for Ferguson, who was released on $13,000 bail during the weekend and is scheduled to appear Feb. 2 in Hilo District Court.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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