Officer sues police
Darla Abbatiello says
the Kauai department did not
respond to threats against her
LIHUE » The 1999 "Police Officer of the Year" for Hawaii has sued the Kauai Police Department, claiming she was punished for reporting a claim by a drug dealer that a sergeant was selling protection against drug arrests.
Officer Darla Abbatiello's lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu by attorney Margery Bronster, former state attorney general, names as defendants acting Chief KC Lum, retired acting Chief Willie Ihu, Assistant Chief Gordon Isoda of the Investigations Division, Lt. Dean Pigao, who formerly headed the vice squad, and Sgt. Irvil Kapua, who allegedly was paid the protection money.
Lum was off island, and the county spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.
The suit alleges violations of Abbatiello's civil rights and violations of the Whistleblower's Protection Act.
The lawsuit is the second to be filed against the police department by a veteran officer working narcotics cases. Last year, Sgt. Mark Begley sued the department claiming then-vice squad head Lt. Martin Curnan was involved in an assault on Begley after Begley complained of ties between vice squad members and organized crime figures on Kauai.
Begley suffered permanent brain damage from the assault, according to his lawsuit. The case was never investigated, and Curnan retired without any disciplinary action against him, Begley's lawsuit claims.
In the lawsuit filed yesterday, Abbatiello, a 15-year veteran and first female vice squad member, said that in December 2003 she obtained a warrant to search the home of a suspected drug dealer. The alleged dealer was the girlfriend of a suspected major drug supplier who in June was arrested with two pounds of crystal methamphetamine.
According to the lawsuit, Kapua, who was not a member of the vice unit, told Abbatiello's commanding officer that she should not be investigating the two suspects. Vice unit warrants are confidential, and Kapua should not have known about the investigation, the lawsuit contends.
The suit also contends that Kapua registered the suspect as a confidential informant in violation of department policy. When Abbatiello told Kapua her real target was the suspect's boyfriend, Kapua allegedly told Abbatiello the man was "nothing" and "small time."
The female suspect did no work as an informant, and on Dec. 26, she was arrested by Abbatiello, the suit says. After the arrest, the female suspect told Abbatiello that her boyfriend had paid Kapua $6,000 to protect both of them from arrest, according to the suit.
Abbatiello reported the suspect's statement to her supervisor and an investigation was begun. As of yesterday, "no meaningful action has been taken in either the criminal or internal investigations."
The lawsuit contends that after Abbatiello filed her complaint against Kapua, he repeatedly threatened her both in the police station and in public places.
Abbatiello requested a temporary transfer to the patrol division to avoid Kapua. In April, she was given a permanent transfer to patrol and her pay was cut from a grade of Police Officer 9 to Police Officer 7, neither of which she had requested.
Shortly afterward, Abbatiello said in her lawsuit, she opened her desk dictionary to find arrows pointing to the word "Death" and her name written in ink beside it. She claims the threat never has been investigated. Instead, her lawsuit claims, she was ordered to use the back door to the Police Department and to stay away from Kapua.
Also yesterday, Abbatiello filed for a restraining order in state court on Kauai seeking to keep Kapua away from her.