Four Honolulu police officers allegedly abused and degraded a homeless man by forcing him to lick a public urinal a week ago. An FBI investigation has been opened to look into what happened.
Though they’ve been taken off field duty and had their badges and guns revoked, the officers haven’t been suspended — they’re merely being made to do desk work from the office.
The person who reported the incident was one of the officers’ own colleagues. The group of officials was called to respond to a trespassing complaint last Sunday near Keeaumoku and Sheridan Streets. While all five officers were initially in the public restroom where the homeless man was, one had to step out momentarily. It was during this period when the other four allegedly began humiliating the man.
The fifth officer later notified command of what the others were doing, presumably after returning to the bathroom and seeing what their peers were forcing the man to do.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard contacted the FBI on the following Wednesday.
"If true, these allegations violate the core values of the HPD,” she said in a Friday news conference. "Our officers are sworn to uphold the rights of all persons. Personally, I am appalled at the behavior."
Honolulu Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan praised the officer who reported the other four, saying he or she “should be commended.”
"As a member of the public, I thank him or her from the bottom of my heart,” Sheehan said. “This is the kind of stuff we need to continue to do at HPD to maintain the highest level of integrity there."
Sheehan added the police department would be deciding this week if they should open an investigation of their own.
One might argue that putting the accused cops on desk duty rather than suspending them without pay or taking other disciplinary measures is the only fair thing to do before the FBI investigation comes to a conclusion, but given how rarely U.S. police are ever punished — even for using excessive force and regularly killing people of color — it would not be surprising to hear of them ultimately facing no consequences.
As Commissioner Sheehan said, "A society is measured by how we treat our most vulnerable members, so it's especially heartbreaking that officers would allegedly do this to a person who's already struggling with issues such as homelessness."
Hopefully the Honolulu Police Department delivers justice for the man who was humiliated by officers who are supposed to protect the public.