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Friday, October 13, 2000

Police mishandling
of fatal collision

Bullet The issue: Honolulu police took improper actions to assist a fellow officer involved in a fatal traffic accident.

Bullet Our view: Officers involved in the impropriety should be disciplined to restore credibility to the Honolulu Police Department.

HONOLULU Police Chief Lee Donohue is retreating from assurances that a vacationing police officer involved in a fatal traffic accident received no special treatment from investigating officers. Videotaped scenes of the accident site showed the officer in chummy conversation with the investigators.

Donohue now acknowledges inappropriate "courtesies" were extended to the officer. Such courtesies are serious breaches of proper police conduct and warrant stiff discipline.

Dana Ambrose of Haleiwa was killed Saturday night when her car collided with a car driven by Officer Clyde S. Arakawa, a 25-year veteran of the Honolulu police force, at the intersection of Pali Highway and Iolani Avenue. Arakawa was due to retire following his current vacation.

On Monday, police officials told reporters that Arakawa passed a Breathalyzer test but would not say when he took it.

Police now acknowledge that Arakawa initially refused to subject himself to a field sobriety test or a breath test or to provide a blood sample to determine his blood-alcohol content. He finally took the breath test five hours after the accident -- time enough for his alcohol content to recede appreciably.

On Monday, an internal affairs officer reportedly said Arakawa would be investigated "just like anybody else who took someone's life." The next day, the head of the department's traffic division insisted that "the fact that he's a police officer makes no difference."

That seemed to be the department's line until the emergence of KHON-TV video footage that showed Arakawa walking freely around the accident scene, at one point draping his arm on a fellow officer's shoulder.

Donohue said he had learned "that courtesies were extended to Officer Arakawa in the early stages of the investigation that are not afforded to every suspect." He added, "These courtesies have had no impact on the investigation but should not have happened."

During those early stages of the investigation, officers on the scene contacted an attorney for the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the police labor union, according to a police report. The attorney advised the officers that Arakawa should not make any statements until he had an opportunity to talk with him, the report said. The attorney arrived at the accident scene about 90 minutes after the crash.

Such courtesy -- police officers contacting a suspect's attorney and passing on to him the attorney's advice to remain silent -- is not inconsequential. Investigators and prosecutors may be able to overcome such police assistance to a suspect to determine whether a crime has been committed, but Donahue's claim that the courtesies "have had no impact on the investigation" further erodes the department's credibility.

This appears to be a case of gross mishandling of a crime scene by police intent on protecting one of their own. It demands a thorough investigation and severe discipline of those responsible.

U.S. can’t afford to
let terror tactics succeed

Bullet The issue: Terrorists have attacked a U.S. destroyer in Yemen, killing at least seven Americans.

Bullet Our view: The United States must stand firm against terrorism.

IN much of the Middle East, the United States is vilified for its support of Israel. The eruption of violence between Israelis and Palestinians may have led to the apparent terrorist attack on a U.S. destroyer in the port of Aden, Yemen. It appears to have been a suicide mission involving a small boat that had pulled alongside the warship while it was docked.

Regrettably, attacks on U.S. personnel in the Middle East have been a fact of life for decades. The threat of attack cannot be ignored. Whether a lapse in security led to the latest incident is a question for investigators.

What is not in question is the necessity to maintain a firm stand against terrorism. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave the appropriate response in declaring, "We will hold those who committed (the attack) accountable and take appropriate steps."

She added correctly that this is no time for the United States to "retreat from our responsibilities" in the region.

It was a little more than two years ago -- on July 8, 1998 -- that the last major act of terrorism against U.S. facilities occurred. U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed; 224 people, 12 of whom were Americans, died.

Two years earlier, on June 25, 1996, a truck bomb exploded outside the Khobar Towers housing complex near Dharan, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Americans and injuring more than 500 Americans and Saudis.

And those were only the most recent incidents.

With America's continuing responsibilities for helping to keep the world at peace, it is inevitable that U.S. forces will be targeted by terrorists. Their intent is to inflict casualties in order to put pressure on American leaders to withdraw the forces from areas where their presence deters aggression.

To succumb to such pressure would amount to conceding the upper hand to promoters of violence. That cannot be.

American forces should be deployed into danger zones only when their presence is clearly required. When they are deployed, all reasonable precautions must be taken to protect them against terrorism. And when the terrorists strike, the response should be swift and sure.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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