County police departments require that complaints against police officers be in writing and notarized.
That concerns female lawmakers in the Hawaii Legislature, who want to do away with the requirement.
“One of the things we’ve been stressing is that in domestic violence cases, sometimes when the victim reaches out for help, that may be the most dangerous point in time where deadly violence could be unleashed on them,” said Sen. Laura Thielen, who introduced the Senate version of a bill to change the process. “And so it’s important that, if the victim is willing to reach out, that they be able to keep their identity as the complainant confidential and then to have that investigation held.”
Thielen’s bill and its House companion are part of 46 bills introduced by the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus, a bipartisan coalition of women legislators from both the Senate and House of Representatives.
This year’s package focuses on ensuring access to health care, keeping kids safe and stopping violence against women.
Two measures call for removing “redundant investigating and reporting requirements” at Department of Human Services and family courts in cases where temporary restraining orders are sought for alleged domestic abuse — specifically, cases involving family or household members who are not adults, or who are incapacitated.
Another set of bills calls for annual reporting by the Department of the Attorney General to the Legislature regarding testing sexual assault evidence collection kits. Legislation passed last year required all law enforcement agencies and departments responsible for the “maintenance, storage and preservation” of the kits to conduct an inventory and report the information to the attorney general.
Thielen’s bill on protecting victims of domestic violence has other purposes.
“You may have other situations where you have friends or family members that want to reach out to help the victim, but again they don’t want repercussions against that victim,” said Thielen. “Or you may have a neighbor who is tired of hearing the abuse but wants to remain confidential because of fear of retaliation.”
Changing Police Commissions
The package contains measures similar to ones that failed to pass previous legislatures. They include bills to amend the composition of county police commissions so that three commissioners on each commission have backgrounds in areas such as women’s equality, civil rights and law enforcement.
Thielen is the lead sponsor of the Senate version. She said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the pending retirement of embattled Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha may persuade her colleagues that it’s time to change the makeup of commissions.
“There seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction publicly over how the Honolulu Police Commission handled the whole matter with Chief Kealoha,” she said. “And so I think people may be more willing to go back and take a look at what’s the makeup of the commissions and do we need to have certain representation on it to make sure that the public interest is represented, and that the public has more of an opportunity to weigh in on some of these decisions.”
Kealoha, who is under investigation for public corruption, is set to receive a $250,000 cash payment as part of a retirement deal secured from the commission. The proceedings were conducted behind closed doors.
Thielen’s police commission and domestic violence bills are part of a slate of legislation this session dedicated to police reform.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues