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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 26, 2001

Police union head asks chief, deputies to resign

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Police Chief Lee Donohue and his deputies should step down in the wake of indictments against top police officials accused of a years-long felony theft scheme, the head of the local police union said.

"I'm just asking for what I think is fair," Detective Alex Garcia, chairman of the O'ahu chapter of the State of Hawai'i Organization of Police Officers, said yesterday. "There is a double standard operating here, one for officers and one for administrators."

An assistant police chief and a police major were indicted Thursday in an alleged scheme in which money was taken from the prisoners' food fund and used for lavish meals for police officers.

Donohue has said that he, the previous police chief, Michael Nakamura, and others were present for some of the meals but did not know the food had been purchased with public money.

Donohue declined to say where he thought the money for the meals had come from, saying that information was part of an ongoing investigation.

Attempts to contact him last night were unsuccessful.

Garcia said that whether or not the chief and his upper-level deputies were involved in diverting the money, it was indicative of improper behavior that they witnessed the catering of premium meals and did not ask questions.

"You're seeing rack of lamb and prime rib and custom breakfasts over a period of years," Garcia said. "And you don't ask, 'Where did this come from?'"

"In our business, perception is everything.

"You are supposed to be honest and ethical and above board, and if there is the perception that you are not, then you are not."

Garcia said lower-ranking officers are quickly and strictly disciplined for actions that could be perceived as improper, in violation of policy or illegal.

He said Donohue's decision to allow Assistant Chief Rafael Fajardo Jr. and Maj. Jeffrey Owens to remain in their jobs while the investigation progressed for a year shows a double standard for administrators and the rank and file.

It could also indicate that Donohue has lost control of his top commanders, Garcia said.

Mayor Jeremy Harris disagrees vehemently with Garcia's comments and has complete confidence in Donohue, city spokeswoman Carol Costa said yesterday.The mayor said calls for Donohue's resignation are ill-advised, and he is confident Donohue has complete control of his department, Costa said.

"The mayor says he's the best chief we've had," Costa said. "Crime is down 31 percent in the past several years. We are the safest city of our size in the country."

Garcia said he intends to ask union board members to consider polling the membership to determine whether officers have lost confidence in the chief.