Maui News

Maui Police Officer with PTSD Files Discrimination Lawsuit

April 25, 2018, 8:47 AM HST
* Updated April 25, 3:10 PM
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Kelly Pauole.

A Maui police officer has filed a lawsuit against the Maui Police Department alleging disability discrimination and retaliation.

The complaint was filed in Second Circuit Court on March 20, 2018 on behalf of Kelly Pauole a 21-year veteran with the Maui Police Department.

According to the complaint, Pauole has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from his service during the Gulf War in the US Army.  He passed psychological evaluations to enter the MPD, but in November of 2006, he was involved in a shooting of a criminal suspect that attorneys say “aggravated” his disability.

The lawsuit claims that over the next several years, Pauole was assigned light duty assignments and went on intermittent medical leave. The complaint further claims that during the relevant time period, Pauole was allegedly “subjected to harassment and disparate treatment because of his disability.”

The lawsuit states that the Maui Police Department failed to assign Pauole with appropriate light duty work assignments and instead assigned him to the cell block where he allegedly “would have to defend against detainee assaults, one of which had broken Plexiglas in his hand, one that had a knife and other seriously dangerous activity by detainees.”

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According to the complaint, in April of 2016, Pauole was told he needed to accept a demotion or be subjected to termination.  He was subsequently demoted to a Public Safety Aide in July of 2016.  He also discovered that the department failed to provide him with “standard of conduct pay” for approximately six months starting in December of 2015.  According to court documents, Pauole was one of only two officers in the 360 member department not to receive this pay during that period.

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The lawsuit stated that Pauole was previously assured that he would receive the same 25 year police retirement which would allow him to retire in December of 2018.

The complaint states that “there is a pattern and practice of discrimination and retaliation against those officers at MPD that have PTSD.”  It further states that “due to the negative treatment of officers at MPD with PTSD,” there are officers who keep their PTSD a secret.

Attorneys for Pauole claim that the department has no qualified medical personnel specifically to address mental health issues, including PTSD with its officers.  “in comparison, the Los Angeles Police Department has 16 full time staff psychologists that any LAPD employee and their spouses can use.”

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As a result of the alleged practices, the lawsuit claims that Pauole suffered “extreme mental anguish, outrage, depression, great humiliation, severe anxiety about his future and his ability to support himself, as well as painful embarrassment among his relatives and friends, damage to his good reputation, disruption of his personal life, loss of enjoyment of the ordinary pleasures of everyday life, and other general damages.”

The lawsuit seeks relief including but not limited to “back pay, front pay, and all employee benefits that would have been enjoyed.”

The Maui Police Department responded to our request for comment this afternoon saying:

“The Maui Police Department continuously hires and supports all veterans.  Many employees currently working within the Department are military veterans or active members, to include the Police Chief himself, who is a 31-year veteran of the Army Reserve.“
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