Honolulu Paid $9.7M to Settle Police Lawsuits, Report Shows

Honolulu taxpayers are reportedly responsible for paying nearly $10 million to settle dozens of misconduct allegations against police officers and the police department since 2005.

City documents obtained by The Honolulu Star-Advertiser for a story published Aug. 22 show the city has paid or approved settlements totaling $9.7 million to end about 80 lawsuits.

The cases ranged from negligence to civil rights violations allegations against officers and the Honolulu Police Department.

The city typically does not admit wrongdoing when settling cases.

The city council often approves settlements after determining the strength of the city’s position on cases and determining that settling with people filing lawsuits is cheaper than going to court, said City Councilman Ron Menor.

Nearly half of the settlement costs come from one case settled this year against the police department for $4.7 million over racial and sexual discrimination allegations. The plaintiffs included current and former officers who filed lawsuits in 2010 and 2012.

The city approved a $190,000 settlement in 2014 in a civil rights lawsuit filed by relatives of a man who died in jail following a drunk driving arrest.

Several years earlier, the city paid $24,500 to the family of a 13-year-old boy who was on his way home from school and injured after he was thrown to the ground by a police officer who mistook him for someone else officers were seeking.

Misconduct by a few officers is not reflective of the entire city police force, Menor said in a statement.

The city council urges city attorneys to follow up with the police department to ensure offending officers are disciplined and that proper training is provided to prevent larger payouts for misconduct, Menor said.

The $9.7 million does not include settlements paid entirely with money from the city’s liability insurance coverage, according to the Department of the Corporation Counsel, the office of attorneys that defends the city. The office could not provide an estimate on how many lawsuits in recent years were settled using exclusively insurance money.