Councilman won't rule out audit of police finances
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Honolulu Police Department's financial practices may face strict scrutiny since the indictment of two high-ranking officers on felony theft charges.
Councilman John Henry Felix, chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, said an audit of HPD may be necessary once the ongoing criminal investigation is concluded.
"We may need to do a financial audit, but at this point it's not the time," Felix said. "We don't want to complicate matters while the investigation is in progress."
Felix said he met yesterday with city Budget and Fiscal Services Director Caroll Takahashi to discuss options and had spoken with Police Chief Lee Donohue.
"We have to determine whether additional training needs to take place as far as sensitivity to financial integrity is concerned," Felix said.
Assistant Police Chief Rafael Fajardo Jr. and Maj. Jeffrey Owens, indicted by the O'ahu grand jury on theft charges a week ago, are accused of buying meals for officers with money meant to provide meals for prisoners held at headquarters.
Owens, 50, pleaded innocent Monday to a charge of second-degree theft. Fajardo, 59, is to be arraigned this morning on the same charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Prosecutors say that at least one other member of the police department, a civilian food service worker, will be charged and that the investigation will continue.
Fajardo is the former business partner of Walter Miura, whose family operates a catering company that has supplied breakfasts to police officers.
Miura's attorney, Michael Green, said Miura had donated the breakfasts to police officers or been paid a nominal fee. Miura was questioned by police and has cooperated fully with their investigation, Green said.
Fajardo and Miura owned Visual Memories photo studio from 1992 to 1995.
Green said the catering company had not supplied expensive dishes like rack of lamb or steak, which allegedly were served to high-level officers.
Donohue has said that he and others ate some of the food connected to the case but that he had no idea it was paid for through the prisoner food fund.
He has declined to say whether he has been interviewed by officers from his department who are conducting the investigation.
Felix said he is confident that participation by any outside entity, such as the state attorney general, would not be necessary to thoroughly and impartially conduct the probe.
"Between Internal Affairs and the prosecutor's office, I think we have everything under control," he said.
Mayor Jeremy Harris said Tuesday that he also did not believe that any outside investigation would be necessary. David Johnson, a University of Hawai'i-Manoa assistant professor of sociology who specializes in issues of police misconduct, said it is not uncommon for outside entities to investigate serious police wrongdoing.
"The routine is for police to police themselves, but there are clear problems with that," he said.
Officers often feel compelled to cover up each other's misdeeds and that can create a culture of secrecy leading to serious corruption, he said. The allegations here, while much less serious than charges arising in cities like Los Angeles and New York, are nonetheless significant because of the high rank of the accused officers, Johnson said.
"Folks at the top establish the climate for misconduct," he said. "It seems very likely that many people knew about this. If they knew, then a lot of wink, wink, nod, nod was going on and there was a lot of concentrated effort to ignore this kind of misconduct."
Reach Johnny Brannon at email@example.com or 535-2431.