Well, that was quick.

One day after Civil Beat reported Hawaii received a D-minus from the Institute for Justice for having some of the worst asset forfeiture laws in the U.S., state Sen. Will Espero took to Twitter and Facebook to say he plans to introduce legislation to reform the practice.

Espero, who is the vice president of the Senate, used to be chairman of the public safety committee, and has been an outspoken advocate for more accountability of law enforcement.

In particular, he wants to set minimum training standards for police to meet before they’re issued a gun and badge. Hawaii is currently the only state without such a training and standards board.

Espero said Thursday that he plans to introduced about a dozen bills related to police reform that he hopes will affect all law enforcement agencies in the state.

Senator Will Espero speaks to HART CEO Dan Grabauskas after joint conference committee moved to next week. 23 april 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Hawaii Sen. Will Espero wants to improve police accountability in the Aloha State. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He believes the state’s asset forfeiture policies need to be updated so that law enforcement cannot seize and sell a person’s belongings without a conviction. Current laws only require a preponderance of evidence of wrongdoing for police to seize someone’s property.

“If there’s not a conviction why would you allow the government to take and sell someone’s property,” Espero said. “That’s just morality 101.”

The senator also wants to consider putting seized funds into the state’s general fund. Proceeds from property seizures currently get directed into the coffers of local law enforcement agencies, which can provide an incentive to take more property.

Espero says he fully expects to get pushback from the law enforcement community.

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