KAILUA-KONA — Public disclosure of the names of officers discharged or suspended from a county police department could come as early as 2021.
The date was set during House Bill 285’s final committee hearing last week in Honolulu when the Senate Committee on Judiciary took up the measure that, if enacted into law, would require Hawaii’s four county police chiefs to disclose in annual reports to the state Legislature the identity of an officer upon an officer’s suspension or discharge from a county police department.
Currently, the reports outline misconduct, discipline and whether the grievance procedure has concluded, however, there’s no disclosure of identity.
The Committee on Judiciary voted 3-1 to pass the measure with amendments with Oahu Democratic Sens. Karl Rhoads and Mike Gabbard voting “yes,” Sen. Glenn Wakai (D-Oahu) voting “yes” with reservations, and Sen. Kurt Fevella (R-Oahu) voting no. Excused was Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D-Oahu).
The amendments, said committee chairman Rhoads, were prospective only, setting applicability dates for sections two and three of the bills.
Section two would require disclosure of identity upon the police officer’s suspension or discharge in the 2021 annual report to the Legislature and each year thereafter. Section three would require disclosure of a suspended officer’s name if the suspension occurs March 1, 2020, or thereafter.
That means, Rhoads said, “a UIPA requester won’t be able to obtain suspension info for the older suspensions.”
Fevella, the lone Republican in the state Senate, iterated his stance on the measure prior to the tally. It was the second time the bill came before a committee upon which the freshman senator sits. However, Fevella was excused from the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs when the membership took up the bill 10 days prior.
During the Judiciary committee meeting March 29, Fevella said he felt if the state continues to “mimic and copy things” that are happening on the mainland, in regard to transparency and the release of officers’ names, that Hawaii will be “just like them in a sense (that) if something happens with law enforcement that the cities that they represent just dumps on them.”
“That’s the reason why we have hardly anybody being HPD (Honolulu Police Department) officers, because the chances of them getting sued or fired and all these kinds of stuff — and even getting persecuted in the media — is just being like the mainland,” Fevella said. “So, before they even get chance to get judged by their own peers or going through the investigation process, they’re already guilty. And, even if they are found innocent at the end — and everything is all good — then their reputation is shot.”
After noting the measures that are already in place are working across the four counties, Fevella closed with “I don’t think this bill would be necessary. That’s my opinion, and I’ll be voting ‘no.’”
In response, Rhoads said: “I don’t want to do that either, what you’re suggesting. These are officers that have been suspended or terminated and I don’t believe that we’re going down that path and I would be very reluctant to do that, too, but I understand your vote.”
House Bill 285 goes for a third reading Tuesday on the Senate floor.
A successful floor vote sends the bill back to the House. Because there were amendments in the Senate, representatives there can either approve and vote on the changed bill and send it to the governor, or send it to conference to reconcile differences between the House and Senate. If reconciled, it would require passage by the full Legislature before being transmitted to the governor for his signature.
To view the latest details on the bill, visit www.capitol.hawaii.gov and enter “HB 285” in the bill status/measure search box.