U.S. State Department special agent Christopher Deedy had been out drinking with friends the night he shot and killed Kollin Elderts in a Waikiki McDonald’s.

How much Deedy had to drink was a major point of contention during his murder trial, which ended in a hung jury and will be retried this summer.

The fact that Deedy was armed in the first place also raised questions about when it’s appropriate for officers to carry their weapons while off-duty.

Now Hawaii Sen. Will Espero wants to eliminate any ambiguity, at least as it relates to officers in the Aloha State.

Espero introduced Senate Bill 2590 that, if signed into law, would make it illegal for state and county police officers to carry a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or prescription medication that can cause mental or physical impairment.

There’s currently no penalty built into Espero’s legislation. He said he wanted a statewide policy that served as a bright-line for all agencies.

“My legislation was drafted after hearing that the Honolulu Police Department allows their officers to use discretion,” Espero said. “Discretion is what Christopher Deedy used and we all saw the outcome of that discretion.”

Each law enforcement agency in Hawaii has its own policy related to alcohol use and firearms. HPD is the largest police agency in the state, employing about 2,000 sworn officers.

HPD Spokeswoman Michelle Yu told Civil Beat that officers whose physical or mental abilities are impaired should not be carrying firearms. She also said off-duty officers who are impaired should call for an on-duty officer.

But Espero, who heads the Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee, says HPD’s policy is too vague. He also found HPD to be cagey about the specifics of the policy.

He said HPD refused to provide him with a written copy of its firearms policy, saying it is mostly confidential due to safety and security concerns.

Instead, HPD gave a verbal summary to the researchers who were helping Espero while he was drafting his legislation.

Here’s what the researchers relayed in a memo to the senator:

Law enforcement officers sworn by the Honolulu Police Department are authorized to carry their service weapons at all times, including when they are off-duty. HPD policy states that an officer with impaired physical or mental processes should not carry a firearm.

However, HPD policy allows officers to use their own discretion to carry their service weapon while in an establishment that sells liquor or when consuming alcohol. HPD policy also states that if the officer feels that there is a need for law enforcement response, the officer should call for an on-duty officer.

It’s the word “should” that troubles Espero most. He believes it provides too much leeway and can lead to a similar situation like the one between Elderts and Deedy.

He said there’s also a lot of room for interpretation when it comes to a person’s impairment, and whether they are the best judge of it.

“What (the HPD policy) tells me is that, yes, they allow their officers to have discretion,” Espero said. “But I’m of the opinion that should not be the case. It should be clearly defined that if a law enforcement officer is drinking he or she should not be carrying a weapon.”

Espero looks at the Hawaii Department of Public Safety’s firearms policy as a model.

That agency’s policy states that officers are allowed to carry their weapons at all times, even when off-duty. But they’re prohibited from carrying a weapon when they’re in liquor establishments and when they’re consuming alcohol or prescription medication that can cloud judgement and make them physically impaired.

Espero’s bill would not apply to federal agencies, such as the FBI, Secret Service or CIA.

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