The world was golden when Koko and I stepped out into it, and perfumed by the taro flowering beside my front porch. Wailaleale was buried under clouds in varying shades of black, and a sheet of rain — soon accompanied by a half rainbow — fell in the distance, on its lower slopes.
And then it all shifted and the clouds drifted and Waialeale reappeared, a hulking mass of blue on a green landscape. Just then I ran into my neighbor Andy, and we were walking along the road, laughing and chatting about higher education, when a cop drove by, slowly, checking us out, and immediately Andy was worried, because his dog Momi wasn’t on a leash.
I guess it’s just the nature of cops, but they have a way of evoking paranoia and fear, even when you’ve called them for help, and especially when you haven’t, and they just appear, or worse, when you’re called to them, which is what happened to me not too long ago.
I was interviewing Mark Marshall in the civil defense building, which is part of the Babylon complex that houses KPD, when he got a call on his cell phone from Deputy Chief Clayton Arinaga, who said he wanted me stop by for a little chat when we were through.
My mind raced, searching for reasons for my summons: Was my registration expired? Had I accidentally parked in Arinaga’s spot? I had a hard time concentrating on Mark, and after he showed me around the Civil Defense building, whose command room rivals NASA’s, he walked me over to the Patrol Services Bureau, where a lieutenant — first name Ollie, I didn’t catch the last — unlocked the door and let me in, then locked it behind us. [Correction: It was Capt. Ale Quibilan]
By this time it was after 5 p.m. and no one was around, except for Lt. Kaleo Perez and Arinaga, who were waiting for me in a room, and after Ollie [Corrrex: Ale} introduced us, he hung around, too.
So there I was, with the three top officers in the Patrol Services Bureau arrayed in a semi-circle around me, all armed, in their badges and uniforms, and Arinaga starts off by saying they wanted to talk to me about the Aug. 7 protest over the burials at Naue because they had a lot of photographs taken at the site with people they couldn’t identify, and I was there, wasn’t I? And then he added, before I could waffle, we were just reading your website where you wrote all about it.
I asked if I’d be incriminating myself if I answered and Arinaga said, no, we’re just having a little chat here, so I said, yes, I was there. Then they wanted to know how I’d heard about it, and were other reporters contacted, too, and did I know who had brought the “blackbears” that the protesters used to link themselves together and did I know all the people at the protest or the guys who came from other islands and was Palikapu Dedman a “personal acquaintance” of mine — whatever that means, because aren’t all acquaintances inherently personal? — and finally, did I cover all the protests on the island and was I planning to cover the court hearing on the motion for an injunction to stop construction of Joe Brescia’s house at Naue?
And all the while I'm wondering if they going to arrest me, and if so, did I have enough cash in my purse to post bail, and I was hungry and shaking cold from the AC and I needed to pee. After about 30 or 40 minutes, Ollie [Corex: Ale] walked me to the door, unlocked it and I was free.
Except I was so rattled and shaken by the experience, even though I’ve dealt with cops professionally for decades, that I could barely eat dinner and my sleep was restless and torn by bad dreams, including one nightmare in which Perez said, “Thanks for all the information that will help us build more vacation rentals on Kauai.”
Upon hearing my story the next day, a friend who is reasonable in all things, and well-connected in the system, vouched for Arinaga as a nice guy and suggested that I call him directly and ask what that little session was really all about.
So I did, telling Arinaga that in my nearly 30 years as a journalist, I’d never before been questioned by the police about a protest I’d covered.
Arinaga said they’d been looking at photos taken at the protest site and saw a Caucasian lady standing in the back and somebody said, oh, she’s over at Civil Defense right now, so they decided they’d make the most of my availability and ask me a few questions. And while that sounded a tad fishy, I suppose such a coincidence could occur.
I told Arinaga it seemed rather odd that the three top officers in Patrol Services were in on the interview, and he said they all just happened to be there so they figured they’d sit in, and then I asked whether he, as deputy chief, typically got involved in misdemeanor investigations.
He admitted he did not, but that this was a rather sensitive case and they wanted to get it wrapped up quickly. And apparently they’re moving toward that, as at least three persons — Andrew Cabebe, Hank Fergertrom and Jim Huff — were arrested Friday on trespassing charges stemming from the Aug. 7 protest.
Finally, I told Arinaga that being interviewed after hours by three high-ranking police officers was extremely intimidating, and was that their intention?
He laughed, and said no, it was just the way things had worked out, but that I probably would have found it even more intimidating if he’d had me arrested and brought in for questioning.
It was all very congenial, despite that last comment, which reminded me that cops have the power, and even though you might never get convicted, or even charged, they can still impose the ugly drama of an arrest on your life if they want to.
And as the journalists arrested while covering the RNC protests in St. Paul discovered, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got press credentials and are simply doing your job.
Is it deliberate intimidation? I tend to think so, especially when it's directed at journalists who aren't part of the mainstream media. Does it work? Probably, with some people. But with others, like me, once you survive a frightening experience, you also lose some of your fear. And that's where the real power lies.