There are times in every cops life when no matter how much you want to do something, you can’t. Sometimes it’s a matter of the law being on the other side. Sometimes it’s a matter of discretion.
For years there was very little an officer could do in the matter of “domestic” problems. Unless the officer sees someone hit someone, there wasn’t much that could be done.
The laws slowly changed, you could ask the male half to leave the premises for 24 hours. Always the male because everyone knew that men were the abusers.
Then it got to if there was enough probable cause, you could actually arrest someone, usually the guy, but hey it was a step up.
Sometimes, like the old saying, discretion is the better part of valor. Doesn’t mean you have to like it.
They were old, both of them. I couldn’t believe how old they were, or how small. She was only about five feet tall to begin with and old age and a life of hard work had bent her body so badly she could not stand straight. He was so skinny he looked like the “skeleton man” at the sideshow.
They had come to Hawaii in 1918. Their parents had arranged the marriage and when they became old enough, they worked the fields and tried to make a better life. They kept to themselves, worked hard, and raised a family. They worked so hard, neither one ever learned to speak English.
In 1960 they moved to a small two room house in the middle of a taro farm in Laie. Two rooms, not two bedrooms, but the youngest children were already adults. There the hard work continued, but it was their life. They would cut, bundle, and the sell the taro. The house had no indoor plumbing, but they made do as best they could.
Every month they paid. Cash. Some months it took all they had, but they always paid.
The only visitors were their adult children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Every visit was the same plea to move and let the family take care of them, but they refused to move from their “home”.
One day the bad news came. They did not own the land, it was owned by a local family group.
The man they had paid all these years was a family cousin. A family cousin that did not have the right to rent the land or to collect that money. He had taken their money and had never told anyone in the family.
One day a man came and told them they had to leave. They asked why and were told the owners wanted to farm the property and wanted them to leave. They refused. It was their home. Several times this happened. Always the same man, the same demand, and the same refusal.
So the owners got mad. The next visitor was a different, and very large, man. He told them to leave, in English. They didn’t understand and made no move to go. So he showed them with his fists. He hit both of them. He told them he would be back.
The next time he came back they had a grandson to talk for them. The grandson never got to say anything, the big man hit him. Then he hit the old man.
The old women tried to fight back. She grabbed the old knife she used to cut the taro and struck the big man. She cut his leg, a scratch really, but a cut just the same. It was enough to make the big man leave.
He called the police. We attempted to settle things, there was no way I was going to arrest that old woman for trying to protect her husband and grandson from a guy a quarter her age and four times her size.
That wasn’t good enough for him, saying he would settle things himself. I took him aside and told him that there would be real problems if any harm came to the old couple. The least of those problems would be jail.
The grandson continued to talk to them as we returned to patrol. Two hours later we got the call, “Trouble at the taro patch”. The sight that greeted me made me want to throw up.
The entire house had been trashed. The only thing standing was the four outside walls and the roof. Pictures from 65 or 70 years were broken and destroyed. Priceless, to them, plates had been shattered. All the doors, windows, the inside walls, the shelves, drawers, everything was smashed. There was nothing left. The old couple had not been harmed, but their lives were destroyed.
Standing outside was the big man and fifteen of his relatives. They were just standing around talking and laughing. Questions were all answered with “I dunno”, “I wasn’t here”. There were three of us and our nearest back up was at least 30 minutes away. The old man and woman were picking up what was left of their entire lives. They could not, or would not, point out anyone responsible.
The grandson arrived and managed to convince them to get in the car and leave with him before dark.
The big man and his “family” just stood around laughing.
Discretion, sometimes it really wasn’t the better part of anything.