Honolulu police chief opposes some reforms for department

HONOLULU — The Honolulu police chief does not agree with all of the proposed changes expected to pass in upcoming state Legislature police reform bills, she said.

Chief Susan Ballard said she does not believe all the measures required to comply with a presidential executive order are necessary at the Honolulu Police Department, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

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President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 16 that he said would encourage better police practices. Trump’s order would establish a database tracking police officers with excessive use-of-force complaints in their records.

Calls for police reform are “a knee-jerk reaction for things that are going on on the mainland,” Ballard said during a June 17 meeting with the Honolulu Police Commission.

Ballard said she does not favor measures such as requiring the naming of officers who are suspended or terminated for misdeeds.

“We’re not perfect, but when we realize our mistakes we’re going to take action,” Ballard said. “The nation is behind, but can you at least leave the 50th state alone? We’re kind of doing OK here.”

Ballard condemned the police use of force in the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. His death prompted protests across the U.S. and around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.

Ballard has defended Honolulu police officers who in 2018 and 2019 shot 20 people, killing 10. Officers shot 12 people and killed six in 2018 and shot eight people and killed four in 2019.

The department sent seven of the cases to the Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board.

“We are different,” Ballard told the police commission, saying the spike in shootings by officers was low compared with other major cities.

“We had eight in a year. I mean what are we comparing this to,” she said. “I mean, yeah, it’s fine for Honolulu, but in general for any other major police department that’s nothing.”

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Paul Perrone, the state Department of Attorney General’s chief of research and statistics, said Honolulu has a “remarkably low violent crime rate” compared with the rest of the country.

Statistics compiled by the attorney general’s office show there were 24 murders committed in 2018 on Oahu and 28 in 2019, about 2.4 to 2.8 murders per 100,000 people in Honolulu.

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