The death of solo bike Officer Chad Morimoto Monday in Mililani has forced the Honolulu Police Department to examine its policy of training motorcycle officers in residential neighborhoods.
Mililani residents report seeing solo bike officers approaching speeds of 80 miles per hour before Morimoto's motorcycle slid from underneath him on Lanikuhana Avenue at about 11:40 a.m. Morimoto was said to be navigating a turn by Mililani District Park at the time of the crash.
Solo bike officers were practicing their motorcade escort training at the time Morimoto was killed.
"Sort of like a relay race," is how Daniel Rodriguez described the training he saw. "It's actually the first time I've seen it." Rodriquez was working at the Reynolds Recycling center at Mililani Town Center when he noticed solo bike officers racing up and down nearby residential streets.
According to Police Chief Louis Kealoha, it's believed Morimoto lost control of his BMW R1200 RT motorcycle before careening into a curb. The 39-year-old was taken to the Pali Momi Medical Center in critical condition, where he was pronounced dead.
Former Honolulu City Councilman John DeSoto, who won the 1973 AMA 250 Motocross National in Toledo, Ohio, said his heart breaks for the fallen officer's family, but he feels it's inappropriate for HPD to conduct high-speed training in residential neighborhoods.
"Don't put it in residential areas," said DeSoto. "You're jeopardizing not just yourself, but other people too."
Like many of the streets in Mililani, Lanikuhana Avenue has a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour. DeSoto believes the outcome of the crash may have been different if Officer Morimoto was training in a more controlled environment with fewer obstacles.
"You have to be in an area where it was made for mistakes," said DeSoto. "If something happened and the officer slid, there wasn't any curb."
Honolulu police spokeswoman Michelle Yu said in a written statement Tuesday that the investigation into Morimoto's death will include an examination of training policies for solo bike officers.
"The department is continuing to investigate yesterday's fatal collision, and, if warranted, changes to department policies or procedures will be made," said Yu. "The safety of the public and our officers continues to be the highest priority."
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Tusli Gabbard, who chairs the Safety, Economic Development and Government Affairs Committee, plans on having a sit down with police department officials about the training methods being used for solo bike officers.
"We look forward to working with them to make sure that the risks our officers are taking every day are minimized as much as possible," said Gabbard. "I think that this is a reminder for all of us about how our officers are putting their lives on the line every single day."
A memorial fund for Morimoto has been set up by the Hawaii Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union. Anyone wishing to contribute can send donations to:
The Officer Chad Morimoto Fund c/o The Hawaii Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union, 1537 Young Street, 3rd Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii 96826, or in-person at any of three branch locations.
Morimoto is survived by a wife, daughter and son. Fourteen of the 46 Honolulu Police officers killed in the line of duty were solo bike officers.