The Hawaii County Police Commission is slated to hear a complaint today by a retired police sergeant who alleges the Hawaii Police Department’s operations around the blockade of Maunakea Access Road by protesters of the Thirty Meter Telescope project is “institutionalized police misconduct.”
The written complaint filed last month by Juergen Canda alleges the department’s “enhanced traffic enforcement” on Daniel K. Inouye Highway near the protesters’ encampment is, in actuality, “a tactical military style operation, under the pretext of traffic enforcement (for safety reasons) … .”
A video of Canda filing his complaint was posted to Facebook by HULI, the Hawai‘i Unity and Liberation Institute, one of the groups engaged in opposing the construction of the $1.4 billion TMT project on Maunakea.
The blockade of Maunakea Access Road by TMT opponents — who call themselves kia‘i or protectors of the mauna — began in mid-July. HPD’s stepped-up traffic enforcement efforts began in August.
“The operations going up there are completely uncharacteristic of normal police operations,” Canda said in the video. “And, to me, it is an obvious strategy of trying to shut down this movement through the use of punitive enforcement, where they’re creating … basically a punitive area to discourage any support of the movement, anybody going up to the mauna, and … a threatening and hostile environment. And not only is it unethical and immoral, but it’s illegal and unconstitutional. And it’s a direct suppression of First Amendment rights.
“And, being that it’s targeting a Native Hawaiian movement right on Hawaiian Home Lands, we’re obviously now treading on Fourth and 14th Amendment rights. And that’s just not how law enforcement is supposed to work.”
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees, among other things, freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” And according to the 14th Amendment, states shall not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
“It’s wrong, and it’s unlawful, and the reputation and the integrity of this department is at stake here. We spent decades building trust and respect with the community. And I feel that’s in jeopardy, and it’s going to have a severe and lasting effect on this community and this island,” Canda said.
Canda, who served 26 years with the department and opposes the TMT project, wrote in the complaint, “The enforcement efforts are, in reality and in consequences, a method of sanctioning citizens through selective and targeted enforcement methods and strategies that have had an intentionally suppressive and chilling effect on the free exercise of state and federal constitutionally protected rights, with the goal of debilitating this civil movement.”
As of Dec. 11, police issued 8,013 traffic citations and arrested 74 persons for 135 offenses during the stepped-up enforcement on Daniel K. Inouye Highway, which police say started on Aug. 15.
Police Chief Paul Ferreira, who is named personally in Canda’s complaint, said Wednesday the filing “has no basis.”
“We do not target Hawaiians,” Ferreira said. “We don’t target anyone with flags. It’s been brought up before. And I will respond to questions from the commission on Friday.”
Ferreira said Canda can voice his complaint before the commission and answer commissioners’ questions in open session, but Ferreira’s answer to the complaint will be in executive session — behind closed doors — because Canda’s complaint, which specifically names Ferreira, “is an allegation of misconduct.”
In the HULI video, Canda identifies himself as a “retired lieutenant, Hawaii Police Department.”
Ferreira said Canda, who once was a lieutenant, retired as a sergeant. Canda later told Hawaii News Now he voluntarily accepted a demotion about a year prior to retiring so he could serve closer to his Puna home. Ferreira confirmed Canda’s account to the Honolulu TV news outlet.
The commission meeting is at 9 a.m. today at the Aupuni Center conference room in Hilo.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.