The Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would eliminate any requirement for an individual making a domestic violence claim against a police officer to do so through a sworn, written complaint.

But not without some excitement first.

The bill drew opposition from the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers in the form of written testimony that called House Bill 456 “contrary to the current SHOPO collective bargaining agreement.”

Roz Baker Close Up Making Point

Sen. Roz Baker makes a point at a legislative hearing last year.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

That left committee Chair Will Espero and Vice Chair Roz Baker confused. Baker said that conversations with police leadership last fall left her with the impression that the provision for sworn complaints was statutory. Baker and other lawmakers grilled Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha last September following a high profile incident at a Waipahu restaurant in which Honolulu Police Department Sgt. Darren Cachola was caught on video repeatedly striking his girlfriend.

At that hearing, Baker vowed to make improving oversight for domestic violence matters involving police a point of focus in the 2015 legislative session.

On Tuesday, HPD Lt. Jonathan Grems clarified that any victim can make a domestic violence complaint, verbally or in writing. The requirement for sworn complaints against police officers is in the union agreement and is mandated for a complainant who wants to aggrieve any issue related to the criminal investigation.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story did not make clear that required statements pertain only to complaints regarding criminal investigations, not the criminal investigation itself. Civil Beat regrets the confusion.

“I don’t care what’s in the SHOPO contract,” Baker stormed.  “It’s not right.”

Grems offered that the provision is an attempt “to protect officers rights’ against false complaints” and that submitting complaints in writing “adds credibility.”

Baker asked, “Why are we putting barriers in front of people” who seek to report a crime?

“It’s a means of intimidating people who want to report domestic violence. It’s appalling police wouldn’t do everything in their power to protect victims but would instead be protecting their own,” said the Maui Democrat after the meeting, adding that she doesn’t see the matter of police committing domestic violence as an issue on neighboring islands, “but it’s a big issue on Oahu.”

The matter passed unanimously, and now goes to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor.

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