Sheriff William Henry Rice reforms the Kauai Police Department

In March 1906, a Kauai grand jury published a report citing corruption within the Kauai Police Department.

Implicit in the wording of the report was the conclusion that Kauai’s police had been accepting bribes for years from the island’s well-organized, illegal gambling hui in return for allowing the hui to operate freely in nearly every district of Kauai.

This judgement by the grand jury was substantiated by the fact that for the longest time police had not made a successful raid upon the hui’s gambling houses, but had instead confined their enforcement efforts only to raiding and arresting petty offenders playing small, social games for amusement.

The grand jury report also disclosed that violations of Kauai’s liquor laws were not being impartially and rigidly enforced.

Some offenders were merely warned by police to cease violating liquor law, while others, with identical violations, were arrested — again, the implication being that police were being paid off by some offenders to look the other way, or were showing favoritism to friends, relatives or associates in violation of the law.

Furthermore, the grand jury reported that the long-established police practice of taking private property from defendants for their own use at the time of a defendant’s arrest — in other words, plundering by police under the guise of law — was finally ended by William Henry Rice, Kauai County sheriff, on July 1, 1905.

Also noteworthy was the grand jury’s account of reluctance on the part of police to give evidence of wrong-doing in their respective districts, and the lack of enforcement of vagrancy laws, particularly in Waimea, where young men loafed about with no apparent means of livelihood.

In addition to stopping police plundering, Sheriff Rice was also instrumental in breaking up the above-mentioned gambling hui.

Members of the grand jury endorsing the report were: Harry C. Smalley, Erling E. Mahlum, William Danford, Fritz Weber, H. S. Padgett, A. Faye, J. L. Hjorth, James Dyson, H. C. Sheldon, J. M. Spalding, Ant. Theilen. Joaquin de Souza, F. Carter, and J. F. McKechnie.

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