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Asian American Officer Accuses Police Chief of Discrimination

— September 10, 2021

KPD officer files discrimination lawsuit after chief allegedly makes racist comments.

Kaua’i Police Department (KPD) Captain Paul Applegate, 55, has filed a lawsuit against KPD Chief Todd Raybuck for allegedly discriminating against him due to his Asian American descent.  The filing comes after Applegate applied for a promotion in 2020, following standard department protocol, and was not only allegedly disregarded as a candidate but was outwardly discriminated against.  The lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court in Honolulu and names Kaua’i County, the Kaua’i Police Department, the Kaua’i Police Commission, and various individuals yet to be determined as Raybuck’s co-defendants.

Applegate, a Japanese American, has been member of the KPD since 2000.  He asserted in the suit that he was “the most qualified to fill the assistant chief position” after the position was vacated in April 2020 because he was “the department’s most experienced and most senior captain.”  The filing suggests that, throughout his time on the KPD, Applegate received “awards, honors, commendations, and promotions and ascended the ranks” and that he “never received any complaints or adverse marks during his decorated career at KPD.”

Asian American Officer Accuses Police Chief of Discrimination
Photo by Rosemary Ketchum from Pexels

The filing further explains that the candidate who was ultimately selected to fill the position (who happens to be white) did not go through the formal interview process.  It states, “Plaintiff was shattered when approximately one week prior to the vacancy being posted, it was announced that Captain Elliot Ke had already been selected for the position.  Upon information and belief, Chief Raybuck selected Elliot Ke without going through the formal selection process in violation of the Defendants’ policies, procedures, and past practices.”

Applegate submitted his application “even after the department had selected another captain for the position,” according to court documents, once the vacancy had been officially posted.  He then learned that Raybuck interviewed Ke one-on-one, even though the department’s selection protocol calls for two people to conduct interviews.  The filing states that Applegate holds Ke in high regard but believes that he is significantly more qualified to fill the position and only did not get because of his Asian American descent.

Disheartened, Applegate met with Raybuck to discuss the selection process.  The meeting took place after a previous meeting in which the chief had allegedly asked him whether he was “hapa,” which means a person who is partially of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.  It goes on to recount multiple other instances of alleged discrimination, including more blatant comments related to the plaintiff’s race.

When they met about the interview process, “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,” according to the lawsuit.  He “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.”

A previous investigation found Raybuck had mocked another Asian American restaurant employee’s mannerisms and said the individual had a haircut from a “Kung Fu movie.”  A letter dated February 26 and written by commission chair Catherine Adams indicated, “Given the findings regarding violation of the Policy Against Discrimination, the Commission will take appropriate corrective action to assure that future violations do not occur.  The details of the corrective action are confidential personnel matters.”


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