WAILUKU - Three Maui Police Department officers were fired in March after an internal investigation into allegations that money was stolen from a woman who was arrested and then extorted for sexual favors in Lahaina last year, police said.
The firings followed suspensions of 29 calendar days for each officer, according to a Maui Police Department report on internal investigations concluded last month.
Two of the fired officers could face criminal charges, "probably depending on how much cooperation the victim would offer," Police Chief Tom Phillips said Wednesday. He said police criminal investigative reports have been forwarded to the prosecutor's office.
The criminal and internal investigations stemmed from two incidents on the same night last August while all three men were working as Lahaina patrol officers, Phillips said
He said officers were clearing people out of a park that was closed and checked on a vehicle. In a search of the vehicle, police recovered drug paraphernalia and a woman was arrested, Phillips said. He said money was taken.
When the woman was released later, another officer - who had been at the scene of the arrest - picked up the woman and tried to extort additional money and sexual favors from her, Phillips said.
He said the victim reported what happened to another officer she knew, and that officer reported it to her supervisor.
Before being terminated from employment last month, the three officers had been on administrative leave for several months while the investigation was under way, Phillips said.
He said one officer, a six-year Maui police veteran who was accused of the theft, resigned when faced with being fired.
The two others are appealing their firings, he said. One is a seven-year employee who was accused of extorting the woman for sexual favors, and the other had been employed for about one year, Phillips said.
He said their names couldn't be released because of the appeals.
Phillips said the new officer, who was being trained in the field by the six-year veteran, was offered a chance to remain employed by signing a "last-chance agreement," but he declined.
While the two more experienced officers were disciplined for committing a criminal act and false reporting, the newer officer was disciplined for conducting an unlawful search and false reporting.
"He was placed in an unfortunate position," Phillips said. "Clearly, there were things he should have reported and brought forward, especially when you're writing a report. I think he had knowledge there was something fishy. He's in a rough position because this was his training officer."
Phillips said the six-year officer had no prior disciplinary history and "was actually considered a very, very good officer."
The seven-year officer had a couple of other disciplinary incidents but "nothing related to this, nothing of this magnitude," Phillips said.
While findings of internal investigations are usually based on a preponderance of the evidence, Phillips said a higher standard of proof of clear and convincing evidence was applied in this case because of the seriousness.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.