LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Police Department and the Kaua‘i Police Commission remained mum Wednesday after sustained allegations of Chief Todd Raybuck violating the county’s discrimination codes from a commission-led investigation were made public.
Raybuck, accused of making disparaging comments of Japanese culture and mocking Asian stereotypes through squinting, bowing and speaking in an accent in an internal complaint, was found guilty according to a Feb. 26 document obtained by The Garden Island written by commission Chair Catherine Adams.
A KPD public information officer said Raybuck would not be making comments at this time and directed questions to the Police Commission, a volunteer board that oversees the department.
Tuesday, the commission met for a special executive session to discuss the matter. Adams offered no additional updates Wednesday.
“We are not at liberty to provide additional details as this involves an active on-going complaint being reviewed in executive session,” Adams said in a statement.
Mayor Derek Kawakami is not privy to the complaint or the commission’s executive session discussions and has not spoken with Raybuck directly on the matter as of Wednesday.
“As leaders in our community, we are held to a higher standard and acts of discrimination cannot be tolerated,” Kawakami said Wednesday afternoon. “Our island has been faced with many challenges during this pandemic, that has been divisive at times, and our administration is committed to bringing people together.”
Kawakami, the grandson of a Japanese immigrant, said that while humor is often used as a way to bring people together, there is a line that should not be crossed in professional settings.
“Humor is a common way for us to embrace diversity and inclusivity. But not all humor is appropriate for the workplace, and there is a point at which humor shifts to hurt,” Kawakami said. “If these allegations are true, they are hurtful, particularly to Asian-Americans.”
From his interactions with Raybuck, Kawakami said he would be inclined to forgive.
“These allegations do not reflect the Chief Raybuck that I know and work closely with. If found to be true, I feel a deep obligation to forgive, and this will not impact my ability to work together with him moving forward to serve the people of Kaua‘i,” Kawakami said.
“I encourage our community to not let this be the focus of our police department and our island. This does not reflect us as a community, and it does not reflect the great work of our police officers and our first responders,” Kawakami said.”I humbly ask our people to not play the role of judge and jury, and that we give our Chief a chance to explain himself and his actions.”
The State of Hawai‘i Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) which represents unionized KPD officers is awaiting final action made by the commission before issuing a statement.
The commission investigation concluded two incidents in which Raybuck violated Section II of the Policy Against Discrimination and created a hostile work environment for an officer based on race. One incident involved negative Japanese stereotypes were allegedly made during a meeting last year in which Raybuck was explaining why an employee of Japanese descent was not chosen for a promotion, according to the complaint and an audio recording that was submitted as evidence.
A separate investigation conducted through the county’s Department of Human Resources concluded that favoritism and non-selection for promotion in retaliation were not corroborated or lacked evidence.
Raybuck, hired in 2019 by the commission, came to Kaua‘i as a retired 27-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.