Two police officers in Honolulu are facing felony charges after they allegedly forced a homeless man to lick a public urinal.
The incident happened in January of 2018, with investigators claiming that officers John Robago and Reginald Ramones responded to a trespassing complaint when they came across the homeless man. During the encounter, the officers reportedly forced the man to lick a urinal in a public restroom, the Star Advertiser reported.
The pair now face a charge of conspiring to deprive a person of their civil rights and another count of acting under the color of the law to deprive the homeless man of his civil rights, charges that were brought down by the U.S. Justice Department.
It was reportedly an officer who reported the misconduct, prompting the Honolulu Police Department to refer the case to the FBI.
“Our officers are sworn to uphold the right of all persons, and I expect every officer to treat every member of the public fairly and with respect,” said Honolulu police chief Chief Susan Ballard. “Personally, I am appalled at the behavior, if it is true, and appropriate action will be taken.”
While the arrest of the officers and the allegations that they forced the homeless man into a degrading and dangerous act has drawn criticism, others are praising the Honolulu Police Department for immediately passing on the allegations to the FBI to conduct an independent organization.
This week, the Hawaii American Civil Liberties Union praised the arrest of the officers and said it was a step in the right direction.
“These are just allegations. These officers are innocent until proven guilty but we’re glad that action is being taken to defend the civil rights of the person who is violated,” Josh Wisch, ACLU Hawaii executive director, told KITV. “That’s one of the things that’s a real takeaway here is there’s been this dehumanizing of the people who are house less across this state.”
BREAKING: FBI arrests two Honolulu Police Officers accused of forcing a homeless man to lick a urinal. John Rabago & Reggie Ramones were picked up this a.m. after a grand jury indicted them on charges they violated the civil rights of the 37-yr. old man: https://t.co/mDHps8MCv6 pic.twitter.com/ihk24fH6LS— Lynn Kawano (@LynnKawano) April 5, 2019
The case came amid a number of other viral incidents of police misconduct in which officers escaped legal consequences. Last month, a former police officer in Pittsburgh was acquitted of homicide charges in the shooting death of Antwon Rose, an unarmed black teenager fleeing the scene after being apprehended by police. Police said Rose and his friends had just been involved in a drive-by shooting, and the officer said he believed Rose was armed, PBS reported.
If convicted of forcing the homeless man to lick a public urinal, Honolulu police officers John Rabago and Reginald Ramones could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000.