Police chief in Hawaii faces lawsuit for alleged racial discrimination against Asian officer

police chief in Hawaii

The police chief in the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i is being accused of discriminatory and racist behavior toward an Asian American officer in a lawsuit. 

What the suit is saying: Kaua’i Police Department (KPD) Captain Paul Applegate, 55, filed a suit against KPD Chief Todd Raybuck last week for allegedly discriminating against him when he applied for a promotion last year, reported the Associated Press

  • The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Honolulu, named Kaua’i County, the Kaua’i Police Department, the Kaua’i Police Commission and multiple individuals yet to be determined as Raybuck’s co-defendants.
  • Applegate, a Japanese American and member of the KPD since 2000, said in the suit that he was the most qualified to fill the assistant chief position when it was left vacant in April 2020 because he was the department’s most experienced and most senior captain.  
  • The suit noted that Applegate submitted his application even after the department had selected another captain for the position. The other candidate, who happens to be white, reportedly did not go through the formal selection process.
  • The plaintiff said that while it is their department’s standard procedure for two people to conduct selection interviews, Raybuck interviewed the candidate one-on-one.
  • Applegate did not get the job and when he met with Raybuck to discuss the selection process, the chief allegedly made racist comments.
  • According to the lawsuit, “Chief Raybuck proceeded to squint his eyes and repeatedly bow to plaintiff (sic), stating that he could not trust Japanese people because they do not always tell the truth.” 
  • The chief then proceeded to say that Western culture “tells it like it us (sic), whereas the Japanese culture says ‘yes, yes, yes’ to your face even when they think the person’s idea is stupid.”

History of discrimination: Most of the allegations mentioned in the lawsuit were part of an investigation the Kaua’i Police Commission conducted on Raybuck earlier this year, NextShark previously reported. 

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  • In the findings released on Feb. 26, the commission cited two incidents in which Raybuck violated the county’s policy against discrimination.
  • On July 29, 2020, the chief made broad stereotypes about Japanese people as he explained why an employee of Japanese descent was not chosen for a promotion.
  • On Nov. 13, 2020, Raybuck reportedly narrated a story to his staff about an Asian customer in a fast-food restaurant while making “facial gestures and accent, and commented on an employee’s haircut as something out of a Kung Fu movie.”
  • Raybuck was suspended for five days in April and was required to undergo Equal Employment Opportunity anti-discrimination training and cultural sensitivity training.
  • “I accept responsibility for my comments and will continue to use this experience to expand my cultural awareness and increase my knowledge and understanding of different cultures,” Raybuck then said in a statement. 
  • Applegate’s lawsuit, which seeks damages and attorneys’ fees, claimed Raybuck continued to discriminate against him after his suspension ended.

Featured Image via Todd Raybuck

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