Wednesday, January 10, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Ex-officer to enter guilty plea in theft

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

A former Honolulu police detective will plead guilty in a theft case related to extradition services provided to the Hawaii County Police Department, state lawyers said yesterday.

James Kawakami, 54, who is cooperating with investigators, is scheduled to plead guilty on Jan. 18 before Circuit Judge Richard Perkins, Deputy Attorney General Christopher Young said.

Kawakami faces one count of first-degree theft and one count of second-degree theft. Prosecutors said he took more than $20,000 from the state and more than $300 from the Honolulu Police Department.

Defense attorney Scott Collins yesterday said Kawakami "takes full responsibility for what were grave errors in judgment."

The state attorney general’s office said Kawakami was not authorized to perform extraditions — escorting people in custody from one place to another — for Hawaii County. The staff said Kawakami used non-law enforcement personnel to assist in some of the extraditions and he sometimes requested payment for others who he said aided in the extraditions although they did not do so.

Young said his office believes that Kawakami did the extradition work for Hawaii County while "on the clock" with the Honolulu Police Department.

"Apparently, his position with HPD allowed him not to always be in the office, so he could fly to the Big Island and come back the same day," Young said.

He said investigators believe that Kawakami performed about 30 to 40 interisland and about five Mainland extraditions per year. The charges against Kawakami cover the period of October 1994 to June 2000.

Young said Kawakami billed Hawaii County, which, in turn, billed the state, and that is why the attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case against him.

Kawakami retired from the Honolulu Police Department in October but a guilty plea would not affect his retirement benefits, Young said. He said Kawakami was arrested and booked yesterday, then released on his own recognizance.

Young said the Honolulu Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division conducted an investigation into the matter and brought the results to his office. No other Honolulu officers appeared to have been involved, he said.

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