Special Report { Uncovering Police Misconduct In Hawaii

In the Name of the Law: Hawaii Police Union 'Outguns' Students

Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat

Part 3 of a 5-part series

Click here to read all the stories in Civil Beat's special report, In The Name Of The Law.

Even before Hawaii Circuit Court Judge John Lim unequivocally championed the public interest in police disciplinary actions and ruled against the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, SHOPO had a Plan B — get the Legislature to do what the courts would not.

SHOPO had reason to believe this would work — and it did. Hawaii is a union-friendly state, and the police had recently convinced lawmakers to narrow public disclosure of misconduct to officers whose transgressions occurred while they were on-duty.

Cops are different from other people, the union argued. Stress and high-pressure situations force snap decisions that sometimes result in a mistake, and officers and their families shouldn’t be publicly humiliated in addition to whatever discipline the department hands down, SHOPO said.

In 1995, the Legislature voted overwhelmingly in SHOPO's favor. Police disciplinary records would be off limits to the public, but the county police agencies would have to file annual summaries with the Legislature so lawmakers could be assured serious misconduct was being dealt with effectively.

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