Honolulu Police Department tells commission arrest of 10-year-old girl 'reasonable,' 'necessary'

Nov. 4—Three officers who arrested a 10-year-old Black girl at a Waipahu elementary school after a complaint from another parent acted in a "reasonable " and "necessary " fashion, an HPD assistant chief told the Honolulu Police Commission on Wednesday.

Commissioners had asked for more information about the at Honowai Elementary following an Oct. 18 demand letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii requesting $500, 000 in damages and new state employees should handle situations with students.

Tamara Taylor, the 10-year-old's mother, said her daughter, who is living with disabilities, was subjected to "excessive force " by officers who handcuffed, interrogated and arrested her daughter. On Jan. 10, 2020, another parent at Honowai Elementary asked school administrators to call police after viewing a picture drawn by Taylor's daughter and others depicting the woman's child who was allegedly bullying the 10-year-old.

The Waipahu school already had seen the picture, Mateo Caballero, Taylor's attorney has said, but called HPD after the parent insisted police intervention was needed.

HPD Assistant Chief Ryan Nishibun told commissioners it was unfortunate that the "race " of the minors and adults in the case was made an issue. HPD took an unbiased approach to the incident and followed all applicable policies and procedures, he said.

Officers will respond to all requests for law enforcement services from schools and parents regardless of race or specialized class, he said.

"In light of all of the events that occurred on the mainland and here in Hawaii and based on the facts, HPD believes its officers took action they believed was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances, given the threat, " Nishibun told commissioners.

Caballero, who is the former ACLU of Hawaii legal director, and the ACLU of Hawaii did not respond to questions from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about HPD's statement or if the 10-year-old's picture suggested an imminent threat to police and school administrators.

The demand letter was sent to the city, state Department of Education, HPD and the state Attorney General's Office.

Officers allegedly interrogated the 10-year-old about the picture, handcuffed her with "excessive force, " arrested her "without probable cause " and took her to the police station. The girl was not allowed to speak to Taylor despite the mother's loud, repeated requests, delivered through tears, according to the letter. Police asked the 10-year-old whether she had hit anyone, and she said no.

Also that morning, school officials asked Tamara Taylor to come to campus. But when she arrived, she was detained in a separate room, apart from her daughter.

School staff and police "refused " to let Taylor see her daughter or let her know what was going on. She asked school employees to leave HPD out of it but was told by an official that it was the "parent's right if she wants us to call the police for her."

When Taylor was finally allowed to leave the room, she learned her daughter was in police custody and headed to the police station.

Commissioner Doug Chin thanked Nishibun for speaking about the incident and for outlining the values and integrity that HPD brings to every call for service. Chin noted it is not easy to speak publicly on pending legal matters.

"I understand that your statement may not be satisfactory to some people in the public, " said Chin. "I encourage the department and leadership to keep working with the folks making this demand to find a resolution going forward that is helpful to the whole community."

Commissioner Richard Parry asked if HPD's investigation into the incident revealed no wrongdoing by the officers. Nishibun replied that he would check and get back to the commission. After the January 2020 incident, Taylor did complain to HPD's Professional Standards Office.

"We did look into the case and we are currently working with the Corporation Counsel on this matter, " Nishibun said.