Spotlight: Dennis Dunn, 40th Anniversary Honoree

Category: Victim Services
Honoree: Dennis M. Dunn

While Dennis M. Dunn retired as the director of Victim Witness Kokua, his tireless work and outstanding leadership continue through his legacy and the high standards for advocacy he has set. Dunn served as the director of Victim Witness Kokua from 1985 until his retirement in 2022, staunchly dedicated and empathetic to victims of all crimes, including supporting the victims of the violent crime of drunk and drugged driving.

“Dennis and I met on the phone in 1992,” Theresa Paulette shared at the MADD Hawaii 40th Anniversary Event, “He was with the Victim Witness Kokua and I was a young mother whose 15-year-old son had been killed in a crash involving a 6-time DUI arrestee. It was on me, a grieving mother, to contact the police and the prosecutor. Thankfully I reached Dennis who was compassionate and supportive for several years as I sought justice for my son.  I like, many victims, have believed that if you do the crime, you will do the time. Unfortunately, many of us have found that isn’t true.”

Prior to the Victim Witness Kokua Services, Dunn was employed with the Prosecutor’s Office in various positions as a Victim Advocate from 1979 to 1985. He has served on a variety of state and local Boards, Committees, and Task Forces relating to crime victims’ issues and services during his 46 years as a victim advocate. He has been actively involved in the drafting and passage of many of Hawaii’s most important victims’ rights statutes during this period.

Dennis has lectured locally on crime victims’ issues and has been a member of the adjunct faculty in Criminal Justice at Hawaii Pacific University. He was a founding Board Member of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a body on which he has served since 1980. He, also, is a member of the Advisory Board for the Sex Abuse Treatment Center, a position that he has held since 1985. He previously served on the Board of the Hawaii Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the Boards of the Friends of Missing Child Center Hawaii, People Against Rape, and the Hawaii Figure Skating Club. He’s served on various task forces addressing Human Trafficking starting in 2004 and as chair and vice-chair of the Hawaii Commission for National and Community Service.

Another important role Dennis holds, in supporting victims, is as the primary handler for the Honolulu Prosecutor’s “Courthouse Dog, Pono.”  Pono was a Black Labrador Retriever, who began working as the facility dog with the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney in 2011.  Pono maintained her post until succumbing to lymphoma in June 2018.  During her 7 years of service, she assisted hundreds of crime victims, witnesses, and their families, giving them the comfort and confidence to testify in grand jury rooms and courtrooms.  Today, Clover, a Black Labrador Retriever, who also trained with the Assistance Dogs of Hawaii on Maui, holds the “Courthouse Dog” position. She joined the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office in 2018 and comforts victims, witnesses, and families since then. Dunn is Clover’s primary handler, and both attended MADD Hawaii’s 40th Anniversary Event.