Legislature Must Give The Police Standards Board The Money It Needs To Do Its Job - Honolulu Civil Beat

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The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Chad Blair, Jessica Terrell, Julia Steele and Lee Cataluna. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at cblair@civilbeat.org.

The way things are going, Hawaii’s newish Law Enforcement Standards Board may well have to resort to crowdfunding to do its important work.

We say this half in jest, as a state agency should not have to ask strangers for money.

But the Law Enforcement Standards Board really does need the kala. It was created by the Legislature in 2018 to establish basic training, curriculum and certification standards for law enforcement personnel in all four counties. Hawaii is the last state to have such a standards board.

The board was appropriated a little seed money ($100,000) in fiscal year 2019. But that’s not much for such an important panel tasked with elevating the level of conduct for police and other enforcers. If you need a refresher in why that’s important, read our investigative special report on the legal and public policy debates over police misconduct, “In The Name Of The Law.”

HPD Officer at Mauna Kea Access Road with camera. July 17, 2019

The 15-member Law Enforcement Standards Board has asked lawmakers several times now for more support, and just last week approved proposed legislation for the upcoming session that would also give it the cash it desperately needs to get going on doing what lawmakers told it to do.

The board wants $483,000 to hire an executive director, a clerical position and a contract researcher; to cover administration, travel and operating costs of the board; and to provide office space for the new positions.

If it doesn’t get the money, the Law Enforcement Standards Board — whose members serve voluntarily — will likely not be able to finalize its standards by December 2021. That goal was originally supposed to be met by July 2019 but has been getting pushed back because there is no one to do the work.

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The state budget has been severely crimped by the health and economic crises stemming from the pandemic. And it’s also true that the legislation calling for the establishment of the standards board faced notable opposition, including a veto threat from Gov. David Ige.

But the bill passed unanimously, and language in the legislation — “that the consequences of a lack of statewide oversight of police are a matter of serious public concern” — rings all too true.

The bill, now Act 220, outlined recent incidents that highlighted the need for greater oversight. The bill states:

For example, a former Honolulu police officer was recently sentenced to prison for using unreasonable force to violate the civil rights of two men.

In another incident, a Honolulu police sergeant was caught on video engaged in a violent physical fight in public with the police sergeant’s girlfriend.

In yet another example, the former chief of police of the city and county of Honolulu faces federal prosecution for alleged criminal violations.

Numerous local media stories have reported on the Honolulu police commission’s lack of power to implement meaningful disciplinary actions for its police officers.

Besides crafting uniform standards for all county and state police agencies — including the state sheriffs and Department of Land and Natural Resources officers — the board is required to put in place a process that would allow decertification of police officers like those listed above.

Getting rid of bad cops has been tough for local agencies that face extreme pressure from the statewide police union, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. The new standards board was in part envisioned to help police administrators stand up to union tactics.

Still, even the board has expressed some anxiety over setting up a certification process that will withstand what will surely be a full-court press by SHOPO. The Legislature is not making it any easier by refusing to pay for the professional staff needed to craft this new program.

The events of this past year nationwide have demonstrated the need for much better oversight of police agencies. The Law Enforcement Standards Board was long overdue in Hawaii.

Now, lawmakers need to finish the job.

Read this next:

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About the Author

Civil Beat Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Chad Blair, Jessica Terrell, Julia Steele and Lee Cataluna. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at cblair@civilbeat.org.

Latest Comments (0)

This Board needs the funding, but make no mistake, the officer violations cited in the article as the reason for the legislation is nonsensical.  ALL of those cited violations were/are contrary to EXISTING standards (and in some cases criminal laws) in all Law Enforcement Agencies in the state.  The problem is, evil people commit evil acts.  Having statewide standards will be a good thing, but no one should expect that alone, will result in a cessation of all Police misconduct.  I will tell you, the 99 percent of the officers who do not commit misconduct want the one percenters out of Law Enforcement because a stain on one always becomes a stain on all when law Enforcement is involved.  I know I carried a badge for 37 years.

TheAdvocate · 2 years ago

The other half of the punchline for crowdfunding is that the taxpayers are already the strangers providing the funds...the choke point is the administration and legislature. Another point to make, with Hawaii being the last state to form a standards board, how well are the other states in policing their police?   But, in spite of that, I agree with the standards being set, met, and maintained. Maybe SHOPO should be on the board to ensure the professional standards are real and practical. I believe unions should hold their members accountable for demonstrating and maintaining the standards of their trades. If they fail to do so, they should be ousted from the union. Unions primary function shouldn’t be in saving a member’s tail when they get into trouble. Unions should question the member as to why the member failed to conduct themselves or perform professionally as dictated by the profession’s standards. All LEOs in the State should be trained under the same curriculum. The ideal would be one training facility in each county or centralized on O’ahu. Don’t omplain about costs because tra

Rampnt_1 · 2 years ago

There should be a better outline of the boards purview, so the public knows what to expect from this board.  I always thought that being adherent to State Laws was standard enough !

CFood · 2 years ago

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