The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies is conducting the Honolulu Police Department’s standard triennial review this spring and soliciting input from the public. But members of the visiting accreditation review committee might not have been prepared for the tenor of testimony they received from citizens and one lawmaker at an open forum on Tuesday night.

Community members blasted HPD on matters ranging from recent high-profile cases of police brutality to a law that formerly allowed cops to have sex with prostitutes during investigations, according to a report from Civil Beat media partner KITV. The forum reportedly drew more commenters than CALEA reviewers are accustomed to see at such events, and the speakers didn’t hold back.

Honolulu Poiice Department Chief Louis Kealoha during Honolulu Police Commission meeting held at HPD main station conference room A. 17dec2014. photograph Cory Lum

Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha during a Honolulu Police Commission meeting.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

State Sen. Laura Thielen took particular aim at how the department has handled domestic violence allegations against its own officers. HPD was the subject of withering criticism last fall when no criminal charges were filed against a police sergeant who was caught on video repeatedly punching his girlfriend in a Waipahu restaurant. A member of the Senate Judiciary and Labor committee and of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, Thielen questioned why the department doesn’t enforce its own policies on domestic violence.

“We currently have a bill in the Legislature requiring those policies to be posted, but frankly I think it’s very sad that we have to get to the point of passing a state law on something where HPD could do it voluntarily,” Thielen said.  “To me, that speaks to a culture within HPD that is treating matters of domestic violence, including ones where their own officers are involved, as a lesser crime.”

Thielen spoke as citizens in the audience held signs reading “No More Police Murder” and “Stop Police Brutality.” Accreditation reviewers have no doubt heard of high-profile incidents over the past year involving Honolulu police officers assaulting a patron inside an Ala Moana game room and violently slamming a Palolo Valley man to the ground. No criminal charges were filed in either of those two matters, even though the latter was caught on video.

It should go without saying, of course, that HPD officers are responsible for a great deal of good in this community — preventing crime, ensuring public safety and bringing lawbreakers to justice.

But CALEA needs to keep in mind that Hawaii is the only state without a statewide standards and training board, which provides an important level of review for police agencies in other states. There are also no citizen’s review boards in Hawaii as are common in other states, often created in the wake of police shootings and brutality cases like those that have recently come to light throughout the country. The CALEA accreditation process is virtually the only outside review of HPD’s policies and practices, and that makes CALEA a critical player in the public’s ability to be confident in HPD’s capabilities.

The department’s responses to multiple incidents of unacceptable police behavior have unfortunately tarnished HPD’s image and caused many to question the department’s commitment to basic standards in areas that count. HPD’s historically difficult relationship with media when it comes to releasing public information hasn’t helped, either.

Reviewers should take those matters into account as they consider how well HPD has performed relative to the “gold standard” that CALEA has set for all its accredited agencies. You are encouraged to share your thoughts on HPD. Send them to:

Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies
13575 Heathcote Blvd., Suite 320
Gainesville, VA  20155

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