A handful of bills that aim to improve police oversight and accountability in Hawaii still have legs in the Legislature after passing key committee votes in the Senate this week.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary and Ways and Means committees held a joint hearing and approved Senate Bill 2411, which would provide funding for body cameras and set the guidelines on how the technology should be used.

The committee also passed Senate Bill 2755, which would create a statewide training and standards board to set minimum requirements for those seeking to work in law enforcement.

Each bill has it detractors, particularly in law enforcement.

Honolulu Police Dept shoulder patch1
Hawaii has struggled for years to enact meaningful police reform. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Police officials worry that the body camera legislation doesn’t allow for more input from the agencies that would actually use the technology.

Government transparency groups, on the other hand, worry that the bill goes too far in keeping footage confidential.

The Honolulu Police Department — the state’s largest law enforcement agency — has also expressed concern about creating a statewide training and standards board.

Hawaii is currently the only state without such an agency.

HPD officials say that having minimum requirements for law enforcement officers could result in the department lowering its own standards, which they say are some of the most stringent in the U.S.

Supporters of the bill say that would not be the case, since the board would only set the low end of the training spectrum. Any agencies that already exceeded those requirements would not have to change course.

The measure, however, would not address police officer certification and licensing, which many experts believe is the true means of keeping tabs on troublesome officers. At least 44 states license police officers.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 2196, which would create an independent review board for police killings and cases involving serious bodily injury, also passed through its final Senate committee hearing this week.

The three bills are now slated to go to the Senate floor for a full vote.

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