A state board has finally started work developing basic training and decertification standards for law enforcement in Hawaii — more than a year after that panel of police chiefs and state agency heads were required to do so.

The Hawaii Law Enforcement Standards Board was created by the Legislature in 2018 but has struggled to meet its mandate due in part to a lack of funding and resources. It failed to implement those basic standards for police by a deadline in 2019.

The board plans to ask the Legislature next year for more money to hire staff that would take the lead on research and development of new standards for Hawaii’s police officers. But the board pared down its budget request at its meeting Thursday.

Members of the Law Enforcement Standards Board are sending a reduced budget request to the Legislature. Screenshot/2020

In the meantime, the current board members, most of whom also work full time in their normal jobs, are finding ways to put together standards themselves before a new deadline of December 2021. The board is also getting help from a national organization that researches police standards.

The standards board is among several new boards dealing with police and public safety that have struggled to make any movement on their goals because of a lack of resources.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board cut its budget request down from $483,000 to $292,500. The Department of the Attorney General, which houses the board, recommended more cuts based on conversations with Gov. David Ige, but the board members wanted full funding for the executive director and staff.

Under the new proposal, the yet-to-be-hired executive director would be paid $120,000 a year while another staffer would make about $60,000. Another $108,000 would be set aside for fringe benefits.

The board did agree to chop more than $190,000 that would have been used for office space, travel and contract work. Notes on the budget request indicate that the director and staff should work from home and all meetings should be conducted by video conferencing.

The Legislature rejected the board’s last two funding requests. And Rep. Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Finance Committee, has indicated that state agencies should not expect more money.

“I don’t see a change on the horizon for our financial outlook,” Board Chair and Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck told the board. “We’ve been denied our previous requests. I don’t know that this one would go forward either.”

A national organization on police standards recommends that boards find a source of money that isn’t dependent on the state’s general fund. In Nevada and other states, standards boards have relied on court assessments. 

Raybuck asked if the budget request could be modified to tap another revenue source, but his request wasn’t taken up.

“We have to have funding,” he said. “Without funding, we are dead in the water, continuing to discuss how to move forward.”

Even without staff, and no money, the board is managing to find ways to make some progress on standards.

Raybuck said he has written letters to several boards on the U.S. mainland that oversee police standards. Hawaii was the last state to create a standards board.

Raybuck has been in contact with boards in Oregon and Nevada, where the police chief previously worked in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The Oregon board provided him information on when it begins investigating instances in which an officer should be decertified.

And though Raybuck has experience in Nevada, he says it’s different now being on the side that creates and enforces standards.

The Kauai police chief is continuing his letter writing campaign, but is about to get some help from a national organization and his other board members.

Mike Becar, executive director of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, volunteered to help the Hawaii board members reach out to their counterparts in other states.

Gary Yamashiroya, a board member and former Chicago police officer, provided the board with IADLEST’s 56-page manual that lays out model standards for law enforcement officers.

The minimum standards manual covers topics including the organization of the board, basic screenings for police, recruitment, training and sanctions.

At the meeting Thursday, the board unanimously approved setting up two permitted interaction groups that would help Raybuck in researching state standards and working on administrative rules that govern how Hawaii’s board will function.

The groups, known as PIGs, allow multiple board members to communicate and work on specific issues without running afoul of the open meetings law. However, meetings of PIGs don’t have to be opened to the public. The groups are expected to present their findings at the board’s next meeting in March.

Attorney General Clare Connors, Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu, Hawaii Police Chief Paul Ferreira, Yamashiroya and Raybuck volunteered to contact the other state boards.

Members Nicholas Courson, a project manager at the Kauai Emergency Management Agency, Yamashiroya and Hawaii County police officer Sherry Bird volunteered to look into the administrative rules.

Notably absent from Thursday’s meeting was Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, or any representative from HPD.

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