Hawaiʻi’s Love for Police is Horrifying

A rally featuring Hawaiʻi's love for HPD
Photo credit: Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaiʻi's love for police displayed here
Photo credit: Honolulu Civil Beat — Cory Lum
Another rally of Hawaiʻi's love for HPD
Photo credit: Honolulu Star-Advertiser

There are few places where locals love their police force on the same level as people do here in Hawaiʻi. Of course everywhere in and associated with the US there are factions of police supporters, but there’s a specifically overwhelming omnipresence of Hawaiʻi’s love for the Honolulu Police Department and its adjacent agencies. Many would think Hawaiʻi residents and kānaka maoli in particular should have negative attitudes toward policing of any kind as HPD has been a terrorizing force since its establishment on our islands (remember the 1985 evictions and arrests of houseless kānaka maoli including legendary Hawaiian singer Paula Fuga as a child?), but the opposite is true. Hawaiʻi’s love for policing is exceptional and explained mostly by our close relationships to family and community. People in Hawaiʻi whether kānaka or not are often driven by a love for and support of family. Because everyone knows and is related to each other (by blood, marriage, hānai, or calabash) here, most families and/or friend groups have at least one HPD officer. There’s also the belief here that Hawaiʻi cops are different from those in the US and that we don’t have the same inherent racism and corruption and injustice in regard to policing. Hawaiʻi’s government is possibly one of the most nefarious anywhere and local politicians, executives, and leaders are impossible to remove from their powerful positions. HPD is a dominant entity with SHOPO or the State of Hawaiʻi Organization of Police Officers (Hawaiʻi state police union) having a dynamic hold on so much of the populace. There is no consistency with Hawaiʻi’s love for HPD though, which is evident upon comparing the mass reactions to HPD arresting kupuna and other kiaʻi on Mauna Kea (read about them here and here), in Waimanalo (seen here), and in Kahuku (and here) and the “Back the Blue” rallies in support of the cops on multiple occasions, but most recently after they killed Lindani Myeni and Iremamber “Baby” Sykap at separate times. It’s unsurprising to witness such harrowing support for HPD when victims of the department’s violent existence are Black and Micronesian as opposed to hostility and resistance when they’re native Hawaiian.

Lindani Myeni was murdered by HPD officers at 91 Coelho Way on April 14, 2021 and his killing was immediately defended by both the department (who tried to block the security footage from being released) and local police supporters. Lindani, a Black man from South Africa, mistakenly went into an Asian couple’s AirBnB thinking it was the next door temple with similar building features. He took his shoes off and followed the couple inside the structure and seconds after he walked in, the woman unjustifiably called the police, crying and yelling at him to leave. He left the house after a couple minutes of confusion and repeatedly apologized to the couple. The woman continued crying and telling the 911 operator he was trying to break into their rental before she pointed him out to the responding officers. Lindani had already left the property and was close to his car when three officers yelled at him to get on the ground with their guns and tasers pointed at him. They did not identify themselves when Lindani asked who they were and they tackled him, tried to tase him, and ultimately shot him 4 times before even uttering the word “police.” The Ring and bodycam footage HPD tried to prevent from public release are featured in this Honolulu Civil Beat article, but the videos are extremely horrifying to watch. Hawaiʻi’s love for our police was on full display as commenters, including kānaka maoli Grammy award-winning musician Kalani Peʻa, took to local news sites saying devastating and racist statements about Lindani and praising the cops for killing him.

Similarly, HPD murdered 16-year-old Iremamber “Baby” Sykap—a Micronesian boy from Kalihi—by shooting him three times in the back and once in the back of his head (documented here), footage of which HPD also tried to block from release. Iremamber and his five friends including three other teenagers were allegedly driving in a stolen car on April 5 when upon pursuit by HPD, the car was shot at 10 times. Iremamber and the other children were all Micronesian and the news of his killing and the HPD chase opened the floodgates to horrific anti-Micronesian comments and attacks. Iremamber’s alleged previous involvement in the legal system also caused hateful locals and Hawaiians in particular to celebrate HPD’s actions that day. Hawaiians and other Hawaiʻi residents have always been extremely racist toward Micronesians since the US military bombed the different small islands while promising COFA (Compact of Free Association) citizens they’d have healthcare, education, housing, and jobs in America. The military literally made parts of the Micronesian islands unlivable from the bomb radiation and lied to the COFA people about what they’d receive in return, sending them to Hawaiʻi and parts of the US without access to any of the free resources they were guaranteed. And since Micronesian folks were sent to our islands, they’ve been discriminated against by basically every group of people in particularly malicious ways. A grand jury declined to indict the three cops—Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee, and Christopher Fredeluces—so shortly after, the Honolulu City Prosecutor charged all three with one count of second-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, and one count of second-degree attempted murder, respectively. This morning ahead of a hearing for the cops, over 100 people gathered in support of the killers and HPD as a whole, as shown in the KITV4 video above. Of course if HPD shot a kanaka child in the back of their head and killed them it would be a different story to all of the Hawaiians rallying, but because Iremamber was Micronesian, the public narrative overwhelmingly supports the officers.

I want to be clear that while I absolutely despise any kind of support for cops, justice for Lindani and Iremamber and every other person harassed, assaulted, and murdered by the Honolulu Police Department is not imprisoning said police. I do not believe in convictions or prison for cops or anyone else who hurts and kills people because incarceration is not the answer. I’ve written about what justice for victims of policing might look like in posts such as this one and this one because what we don’t need here in Hawaiʻi is more policing and incarceration for anyone. HPD has murdered Lindani Myeni, Iremamber “Baby” Sykap, Reno Velleses, Michael Kahana Davis, Mark Ahnee, Herbden Gabriel, Aaron Torres, Gregory Gordeon, Stephen Dinnan, Victor Rivera, Richard Nelson, James Pickard Jr., Sheldon Haleck, Walden Dang, Dwain Lasit, Cameron Johnson, Pekelo Sanchez, Renie Cablay, Steven Allan Kaluahinui Hyer Jr., Gavalynn Mahuka, Freddie Whitmore, Michael Perez, Tison Dinney, Sherianne Leinaʻala Nixon, Siatuu Tauai Jr., Kyle Thomas, Danny Colton, Peter Purcell, Michael Kalahehoe, Dustin Spencer, and Dana Brown, and until we abolish policing in Hawaiʻi, more names will inevitably be added to that list. It’s abhorrent that Hawaiʻi’s love for police runs so deep, but I have hope that one day we’ll break that bond and finally see the many possibilities of abolition as justice for all victims of HPD.