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Kaua'i police chief suspended for anti-Asians comments

The chief of the Kaua'i Police Department in Hawaii received a five-day unpaid suspension after he was found to have made comments mocking people of Asian descent.

After an employee launched a complaint against Chief Todd G. Raybuck, an investigation uncovered that he had violated the county’s policy against discrimination in November 2019 and July of last year, according to a statement released by the department on Friday.

The human resources probe also said that the employee, who alleged Raybuck made racist comments to him, was not passed up for promotions because of his ancestry, race or national origin.

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Raybuck will be required to complete Equal Employment Opportunity and cultural sensitivity training.

“I value and appreciate diversity in the workplace and within the community. 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,” he said in a statement. “I am deeply humbled by the support I have received and appreciate the grace I have been given.”

Local newspaper The Garden Island reported that Raybuck met with staff in November 2019 and recounted a story about an Asian customer in a fast-food restaurant, making facial gestures and using an accent while laughing at his demonstration.

And in July, he reportedly pushed stereotypes about Japanese culture. The complaint alleges that the chief squinted his eyes and bowed his head while making the comments.

“So, somebody in the Japanese culture, if they think your idea is absolutely stupid and the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard, what’s their typical response to you?” Raybuck asked, according to audio recordings submitted as evidence to the complaint. “‘Yes, yes, yes.’”

Raybuck has only lived in Kaua'i for two years after he was selected for the position in March 2019, with a 2021 salary of $137,022 a year. He previously served as a captain with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

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After the allegations were made public in March, Mayor Derek Kawakami said he was hurt because his office “rolled the red carpet out to accommodate him and get his family acclimated to Kauai.”

“We have a great working relationship. But for Japanese Americans in Hawaii, it stings,” Kawakami said. “The timing of the pandemic and the rise in some of the discrimination against Asian Americans, it cuts deeply.”

More than 31 percent of Kaua'i County’s population is of Asian decent and another 9 percent is Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, according to 2019 Census data.

News of Raybuck’s suspension comes amid a rise in anti-Asian rhetoric, discrimination and hate crimes since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.