Jackass justice

My head is spinning over the arrest on the Big Island of a Census taker in Puna for entering the property of an off-duty cop who didn’t want to be bothered.

The cop called in his buds on the force and the Census worker, 57-year-old Russell Haas, waited outside the gate for the officers to arrive, thinking they’d smooth things over and help him get the information from the recalcitrant resident.

Instead, they crumpled his Census forms and threw them at him, told him to “get the hell outta here” and arrested him for trespass when he didn’t hop to. (The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has the details here; some of the reader comments at the end are quite entertaining.)

The county prosecutor is backing the apparent police overreaction, filing misdemeanor charges against Haas that could cost him $1,000 and 30 days in jail.

If there’s good reason for this heavy-handed law enforcement, police and prosecutors aren’t saying. They’ve thrown up a veil of secrecy that includes refusing to name the officer who filed the complaint.

The outraged U.S. Attorney, who usually prosecutes cases, jumped in as defense counsel for Haas and petitioned to have the case transferred to federal court on O’ahu.

The way U.S. Magistrate Kevin Chang last week bent over backward to accommodate the transfer suggests Big Island prosecutors will be thrown out on their okole if they don’t drop the charges before the case proceeds further.

Our civic atmosphere is polluted and our public institutions clogged by people basically acting like jackasses over inconsequential matters.

This story has circulated around the country, naturally, adding to the growing impression among our fellow Americans that we’re seriously conflicted in Hawai’i as to whether we want to be part of the union.

And it adds to the increasing reputation of my beloved Big Island as an uncouth backwoods.

Law enforcers over there still haven’t wiped the Peter Boy egg off their faces in the minds of many, and it’s disturbing that they’re not smart enough to realize they can’t keep looking like bumbling fools.

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11 Comments on “Jackass justice”

  1. Michael Says:

    How did you come to title this Jackass Justice?

    Republicans will roll on this one. La Jennet parlez vous ane or annes?

  2. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    I certainly don’t condone what happened here, but I also don’t feel that it should be mandatory to fill out census forms either. If someone doesn’t want to be counted, then that should be as much his right as not voting.

    Sorry to be sounding so tea-baggerishy, but I am really disturbed over the increasing intervention by The Federal Government in our lives.

  3. zzzzzing Says:

    Refusing the form is one thing; having him arrested is another cup of tea entirely.

  4. Michael Says:

    If the house burned down. Would the owner who had the Census taker arrested, complain to the State or County, no one helped put the Fire out? Why should he? He is not there, but the lights were on?

    Bag that one.

  5. David Shapiro Says:

    Cap, the Census isn’t “increasing intervention by The Federal Government in our lives.” It’s been going on forever. Only the silly objections are new. On the intrusiveness scale, it ranks with going “click” when you walk through the turnstile at a Warriors game. Is it really so much trouble to raise our hands and say “here” once every 10 years?

  6. jayz43 Says:

    If this is the same area I visited a few years ago, this is REALLY the Wild West. The houses were without electricity, far apart from your neighbors, and the owner said she often heard gunshots at night.

    It may have improved in the last 8-9 years, but back then it looked more rural, actually “backwoods” than ANYTHING I had ever seen in Hawaii. And reading the comments, I would guess most of them have a lot of truth to them.

    But then, the Big Island always seemed a little strange to me, someone who was born and raised on Oahu. The first time I visited my sister & brother-in-law at their Hilo house, I awoke to see a wild pig and her piglets feasting in the garden outside my bedroom window, he, he. My next surprise that day was visiting the garbage dump to drop off our trash because they don’t have trash collection there. And then I was told they don’t have “The Bus” either.

    A lot of the simple “amenities” we take for granted here, they apparently have learned to live without.

    I find the “ad prompts” accompanying your article humorous: “Become A Police Officer: SWAT, K9, Narcotics”, “Talk To A Lawyer Now”

  7. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:


    How about the cell phone usage tracking? How about all the stuff you have to go through to fly from here to there these days? How about all invasions of privacy in the Patriot Act? How about having to prove you exist on paper to get a job? Or to receive Social Security benefits? I don’t so I can’t.

  8. zzzzzz Says:

    From the accounts I’ve read, what happened was far worse than bumbling foolishness.

    @Cap–while you have some good examples of gov’t intrusiveness, the census has gotten far less intrusive. None of the questions about if you have running water or a working toilet any more.

  9. Michael Says:

    If one is a problem, yeah follow that person.

  10. Kaaahi Says:

    Since 1790- every ten years- according to the US Constitution our citizens are counted. The fed dollars follow the population growth.

  11. Michael Says:

    Kaaahi: Could not have been said better in so few words.

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