The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii is among those suing the Honolulu Police Department, claiming that an officer targeted and harassed a 15-year-old boy, “motivated solely by a personal vengeance."
The officer had the boy arrested in violation of his civil rights because the teen and the officer's son were at odds and had fought after school, said the lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Honolulu.
The ACLU of Hawaii, along with lawyers for the boy's parents, said the lawsuit also seeks to end the police department's practice of letting officers abuse their power for personal purposes.
They noted it's another example of how Honolulu police officers abuse their power, along with the case of a now-retired police chief convicted of conspiracy in what's considered Hawaii's biggest corruption case. Louis Kealoha and his former deputy city prosecutor wife are scheduled to be sentenced to prison terms next month after a jury found them guilty in a plot to frame a relative to keep him from revealing fraud that funded the couple's lavish lifestyle.
“We have probably the most corrupt police department in the nation,” said Eric Seitz, one of the attorneys representing the boy's parents.
Josh Wisch, executive director of the ACLU of Hawaii, noted that Honolulu police officials have recently said the police abuses that have been highlighted in other parts of the U.S. don't happen in Hawaii.
Spokespersons for the police department and the city of Honolulu didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
In 2018, a day after his son started a fight with the boy identified in the lawsuit as J.R., Officer Kirk Uemura, in his patrol car, followed the school bus as it drove the boy from the Marine Corps base where his father Jorge Rivera is stationed to Kalaheo High School, the lawsuit said.
Uemura grabbed the boy as he got off the bus and detained him in front of students and staff, the lawsuit said, for personal retribution “in an outrageous abuse of power.”
Uemura couldn't immediately be reached for comment Monday.
The boy was taken to a police station, where he was handcuffed and shackled, the lawsuit said.
ACLU of Hawaii attorney Wookie Kim said they have tried for nearly two years to use the police disciplinary process to hold the department accountable, but there's been little or no information about whether the officers involved were disciplined.
Jenna Rivera told reporters during an online news conference that her son is in therapy and had to repeat the ninth grade because of what happened to him. “After the incident, it was downward spiral,” she said.