City settles suit alleging Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard falsified recruits’ scores
(Source: Star Advertiser)
The Honolulu City Council unanimously approved a $550,000 settlement payment to a 32-year veteran police officer who alleged in a 2009 lawsuit that Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, then a major, tampered with test scores for recruits.
The Council approved the settlement Friday.
The civil case filed by Deeann Koanui, then a Honolulu police sergeant, alleged that Ballard, who was commander of the Training Division at the time, was involved in tampering with recruits’ scores on physical and written tests and ordered the destruction of incriminating documents.
Koanui had been in charge of physical and other tests of recruits.
In one case, a recruit who could not perform the requisite pushups was later allowed to retest and failed again, the lawsuit said. However, she was allowed to pass, according to the suit.
Ballard, who was out of town Friday, did not return a request for comment.
The Honolulu Police Department issued a two-sentence statement saying, “The case has been amicably resolved. The Honolulu Police Department wishes Lt. Koanui well.”
Koanui retired at the end of 2018 as lieutenant.
Honolulu Police Commission Chairwoman Loretta Sheehan did not return a call for comment late Friday.
Around the time test scores were allegedly tampered with, HPD had a shortage of police officers. A 2007 City Auditor’s report said the department was about 18 percent below full force numbers, according to the lawsuit.
The commission was aware of Koanui’s lawsuit in 2017 when it selected Ballard as chief.
Koanui’s lawyer, Carl Varady, said: “Lt. Koanui put her heart and soul into making the department better every day she was on the job and filed this lawsuit to try and further that effort.
“I think the settlement speaks for itself, and if you look at the time and effort she put into seeing this through to resolution, it’s just a reflection of her commitment to a police force that exemplifies the best values.”
Koanui, who had special training that permitted HPD officer training programs to be certified by nationally recognized training organizations, was removed in April 2008 from HPD’s physical fitness program.
On April 29, 2008, the 160th recruit class was given their exams on their knowledge of property crimes, and seven recruits failed; they were retested a day later, and five failed the re-test, according to the suit. They should have been terminated, the complaint says, but instead were given passing scores by Ballard, Lt. Steven Gerona or both.
Koanui alleges she saw violations in training protocols and standards and other improper conduct by superiors, including falsifying written and physical test scores.
She also alleged that a number of women were subjected to harsher treatment than men in the dojo, or training room, after Gerona was reassigned by Ballard to oversee the dojo. He allegedly instituted invalid protocols and training that rendered training results invalid and voided HPD’s insurance policy.
Koanui began reporting issues to HPD’s Internal Affairs office and was the subject of retaliation and harassment beginning in September 2008, court documents say.
Koanui said in a court filing the city destroyed original police recruit test scores for the 160th police recruit class and notes, recorded statements and supporting documentation that would have been a part of the Internal Affairs investigations.