Police testimony
may risk officer’s
life, SHOPO says

Officials object to a police officer
having to reveal his address

By Nelson Daranciang

The Honolulu police union says it is worried that officers could become easier targets of retaliation by criminals after a state judge ordered an officer involved in a drug case to disclose his home address in court last week.

But the public defender who asked for the information said police are overreacting and that the officer brought the order on himself.

On Jan. 8, during a preliminary hearing of a defendant accused of a felony charge of promotion of dangerous drugs, Honolulu District Court Judge Russel Nagata ordered the arresting officer to disclose his home address.

State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers Oahu sent a letter Tuesday to the city prosecutor's office expressing "great concern" about the order. The letter requests that the prosecutor's office look into the matter.

Deputy Public Defender Debra Loy made the request for the order after discovering the officer had notes about the case at his home during cross-examination.

"Honolulu police are notorious for destroying notes before we get a chance to subpoena them," Loy said.

She said police officers can avoid having to disclose their home addresses in court by including the notes with their reports rather than "treating them as personal property."

SHOPO Chairman Kimo Smith countered that officers have a code of ethics and that they will provide notes when asked.

The deputy prosecutor objected to Nagata's order, arguing that there are other ways of getting the notes, but was overruled, said Jim Fulton, Honolulu City Prosecutor spokesman.

"He's already gone on record that he has the notes. They could have requested the notes to be turned over at a different place or subpoenaed and delivered at HPD," Fulton said.

The state Judiciary does not have a rule that prohibits a police officer's home address from being disclosed in court, said Marsha Kitagawa, Judiciary spokeswoman. But she said judges have the discretion to seal proceedings and documents for confidentiality.

The officer was shocked but complied with Nagata's order rather than be held in contempt of court, said Smith.

He said police officers have good reason to guard their home address.

"We've had an officer in a narcotics case killed at his home," he said, referring to Troy Barboza, who was gunned down as he slept in his Manoa home in 1987 by a defendant he had arrested in a drug case.

"Other cases where drug dealers face possible federal charges, a lot of these individuals retaliate. Threats of contracts out for officers had been commonplace in the past," Smith said.

Loy said police in other states are not as guarded with their home addresses as Honolulu officers are.

"From my experience, because of the union, SHOPO, the police here are more protective than in other jurisdictions," she said, noting that she has worked in Oklahoma, Idaho, Texas, Illinois and Utah.

HPD administration is aware of the case and is concerned, said spokeswoman Michelle Yu.

Fulton said the city prosecutor's office has not decided what, if any, action should be taken to prevent officers from being ordered to disclose their home addresses in court.

"We've never seen this happen before," he said.

Honolulu Police Department

E-mail to City Desk


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