Police silent as internal drug theft investigated

The Hawaii Police Department is not commenting after releasing information about an investigation into missing drug evidence, which identified a former police officer as a person of interest.

“As stated in the media release, this is still an open investigation, therefore, no additional comments will be made by me or my staff,” Police Chief Paul K. Ferreira stated in an email Thursday afternoon.

The case was forwarded to the Hawaii County Prosecutor’s Office on March 2 for a review of possible charges.

“We’re determining whether to keep it here or if we have any conflicts,” said Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth.

If a conflict of interest is determined, Roth said, the case would be forwarded to the Department of the Attorney General, which could prosecute it or decide to assign it out to a prosecutor’s office in another county.

A press release regarding the criminal and administrative investigations was posted on the Police Department’s website Thursday morning. It indicated that in October 2017, it was discovered that cocaine recovered as evidence in 2014 was found to be lighter than reported during its initial recovery.

The release states the discrepancy was discovered when the evidence was being weighed in preparation to use a small quantity of the drug for training purposes.

“The investigation quickly identified a sworn employee as being a person of interest for the missing portions of the drug,” according to the release.

Police spokesman Alan Richmond said a sworn employee is a police officer. The former officer’s rank or years of service were not disclosed. The officer’s identity also was not released, nor was the amount of drugs missing.

In an interview on Hawaii Public Radio, Ferreira said the officer held the rank of detective.

At the time of the investigation, the release indicates the officer immediately was placed on administrative leave without pay. Audits of other evidence recovered by the officer revealed “other anomalies, which revealed cases whereby there was a weight discrepancy in marijuana concentrate, (hashish), from two separate investigations.”

The investigations from which the evidence came from had been suspended because there were no suspects.

The officer has since retired from the department. Roth thinks the individual retired this year, however it could have been at the end of 2017. Roth didn’t know if the former employee was receiving retirement benefits.

In November, the Police Department said it was expecting up to 20 upcoming retirements, eight of which were ranking officers.

Although it has been five months since the initial investigation, Roth said, he thought the release of information was rather quick.

“I think the police chief has done everything to be as transparent as possible,” he said.

From what he saw, Roth added the investigation was in-depth. The report filed with the prosecutor’s office was pages long.

“You could tell a lot of hours went into it,” he said.

Since the investigation began, the release states the department has tightened up procedures in order to ensure a similar scenario isn’t repeated.

Neither the state Legislature nor Legislative Reference Bureau had received the annual Misconduct Report from the Hawaii Police Department as of Thursday.

Maui, Kauai and Honolulu police departments submitted their reports ahead of the deadline. Those reports are available on the state Legislature’s website for review.

Hawaii Revised Statutes requires the chief of each police department submit to the Legislature no later than Jan. 31 an annual report of misconduct incidents that resulted in suspension or discharge of an officer during the calendar year prior, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

The Hawaii County Police Commission in its Jan. 19 meeting in Kailua-Kona received correspondence regarding the report from the police chief but did not discuss the matter.During the meeting’s Police Chief’s Report on Department Activities, according to the minutes posted online, Deputy Chief Kenneth Bugado Jr. told the commission the report “contained cases that went before ARB. Verbal and written reprimands were not in the report. They did not identify any trends.”