A long-urged reform of Hawaii’s open records laws to make more police disciplinary records available to the public passed the Legislature Monday.

House Bill 285 cleared the Senate with little discussion in a 20-4 vote. It passed in the House after much deliberation, 37 to 14.

Measures similar to HB 285 have failed to pass the Legislature for at least the past five years.

Twenty-five years ago, the Legislature granted an exemption in the state public records law to county police officers, closing off the public’s ability to see disciplinary files of officers who were suspended for misconduct. Records of officers who were fired were publicly available after the termination was final, a process that often takes years when it goes through a union grievance process.

Disciplinary files for all other public employees who are suspended or discharged are publicly available under the state’s Uniform Information Practices Act. But in 1995, lobbying by the statewide police union convinced lawmakers to exempt county police from the requirement.

SHOPO supporters Lormona Meredith and right, Jenn Meredith hold signs in SHOPO and HPD support at the Capitol Rotunda. July 6, 2020.
SHOPO supporters Lormona Meredith and Jenn Meredith, right, rallied at the State Capitol rotunda Monday to oppose HB 285. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

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