More than a year after its creation by the Legislature, Hawaii’s law enforcement standards board still has not done what it’s supposed to do — create uniform standards for law enforcement in the state.
After blowing its July 1 deadline set by the Legislature to do just that, the board voted Tuesday — during its first meeting in nine months — to approve a resolution to ask legislators for more money and time.
“There were not sufficient resources to accomplish the type of program and review and analysis that the Legislature contemplated in its legislation,” said Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors, one of 15 members on the board.
The standards board is administered through the attorney general’s office and comprises chiefs and directors of county and state agencies with law enforcement powers, including taxation, public safety, transportation and land and natural resources.
The resolution doesn’t say how much money or time the board needs, but says it needs them because board members aren’t paid to come up with the standards and there’s an extensive amount of work to be done.
Connors and her first deputy, Dana Viola, said the board needs an administrator and one or two support staff.
Previously, former Attorney General Russell Suzuki worked on legislation considered this past legislative session that would have given the board $275,000 and four more years. Those measures did not pass.
As it stands, each of the law enforcement agencies in Hawaii already has its own standards and certification processes in place, with different bargaining units and issues, Connors said. What the legislation is trying to accomplish is “far and expansive,” she added.
“I’m not suggesting that we can’t implement it,” she said. “It’s just going to have to be a much more deliberate and resourced project.”
Connors said this new resolution is essentially buying the board more time until the new legislative session begins in January when more concrete plans can be put into place.
Former Sen. Will Espero, who has been pushing for a police standards board since 2014, said he was disappointed that this board does not appear to be on the attorney general’s priority list.
“I think this board is thinking way too hard about how to proceed forward and how to come up with a final product,” he said.
Espero said the law enforcement standards board has an important responsibility.
The public saw that law enforcement can be corrupt through the Kealoha trial, he said. Through this process, the board would be “reprogramming and updating” the resumes of law enforcement officers in Hawaii.
“It’s really a matter of them meeting consistently and taking their jobs seriously,” he said.
Rep. Scott Nishimoto, who sponsored the 2018 bill that created the law enforcement standards board, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Tuesday public meeting was the board’s second meeting thus far, and the first one since the inaugural meeting in November.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard did not attend Tuesday’s meeting and sent a representative in her place. Neighboring islands’ chiefs declined to be interviewed, saying they needed to catch their flights back home.
Another thing that still hasn’t been done is filling six vacancies on the 15-member board. Viola said the AG’s office has forwarded a list to the governor for his review.
A follow-up meeting has not yet been scheduled.
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