HPD worker charged in record tampering
The woman claims the city is retaliating for her civil lawsuit
A Honolulu police outreach worker awarded more than $500,000 in a sexual harassment claim against the department improperly accessed and stole medical examiner records, city prosecutors say.
An Oahu grand jury indicted Sharon Black, a civilian crisis-intervention counselor with the Honolulu Police Department for nine years, yesterday with second-degree unauthorized computer access, fourth-degree theft and tampering with government records about a year ago.
Black denies doing anything wrong and says it was the result of a misunderstanding that she believed had been cleared up a year ago after she returned the reports sought by the medical examiner.
Black says she was "floored" to hear about the criminal charges and contends that the medical examiner and Honolulu police conspired against her in retaliation for the civil sexual harassment suit she filed against her supervisors at HPD about 10 years ago. "It's retaliation by false accusation," she said.
A police spokeswoman said they have not seen the indictment and cannot comment. The medical examiner also declined comment.
When the allegations initially arose a year ago, Black said she was immediately placed on administrative leave with her pay reduced by 60 percent. She was later reassigned to the police Records Division, but because of stress from the situation, she was placed on medical leave and has been out of work for a year.
She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that she was being retaliated against because of the sexual harassment case.
Black said the charges apparently stemmed from research she was conducting at the Office of the Medical Examiner on suicide deaths. Her employer felt that hospitals were releasing psychiatric patients inappropriately, and wanted more information so that its officers could better respond to cases involving suicidal patients.
She said she had the permission of Medical Examiner Kanthi De Alwis to access the information and was given access to the medical examiner computers by the staff, which also assisted her in printing out some of the records so she could complete the work at home.
"I printed them out to speed it up because I was under pressure by HPD to finish the report," Black said.
She was called that night and was instructed to return the records the following day, which she did, she said. Three weeks later she learned she was accused of stealing documents. Black has since been on leave with pay since she was informed of the allegations.
Black said she did not benefit personally from the information contained in the documents and was using the information to help assist officers recognize warning signs when dealing with psychiatric patients. She said she showed police documentation that she had permission and authority to access the medical examiner's computers, but they did not want to see it, she said.
Bail for Black, who continues to run the Kaukau Wagon to provide meals for the homeless, was set at $5,000.