Police follow disclosure guidelines of contract
By Lee Donohue
I would like to acknowledge reporter Brandon Masuoka for his fair reporting on the issue of police discipline on Dec. 20. I knew instinctively that an editorial would follow on the issue of disclosure of officers' names and facts involved in our administrative investigations, and I was right. The next day, your editorial titled "HPD secrecy: Citizens can't judge performance" was published.
The editorial suggests that releasing the names of officers and additional facts involved in administrative investigations resulting in disciplinary action would inspire public confidence in the HPD. This has been a continuous contention of the media, especially The Honolulu Advertiser. I disagree with your premise and would like to set the record straight.
The HPD cannot release the names of officers who have been disciplined because we are bound by laws and the SHOPO contract. Is The Advertiser suggesting that the HPD break the law? Perhaps you should state that your disagreement is with the law and the collective-bargaining agreement, not with the HPD administration.
All we ask for is a fair portrayal of what is involved in our administration of discipline. Currently, the law allows the department to release the names of officers who have been terminated, but only after the "due process" procedure has been exhausted. When officers are charged with crimes, their names are released at the time of charging, just like in the case of anyone else. We also provide the media with other information, such as the officer's rank, years of service and duty assignment.
If we want to look at what will inspire public confidence in the HPD, consider these facts:
The HPD has nearly 680,000 documented contacts with the public each year, of which approximately 476,000 such as citations, arrests, and mediation of disputes are considered confrontational. Last year, the HPD received approximately 225 complaints, 180 of which were from the public. Out of the total number of contacts made by our officers, only 82, or one one-hundredth of one percent, resulted in a sustained complaint.
The latest FBI report on crimes reported in the 20 largest U.S. cities shows that Honolulu ranked 20th in the number of violent crimes, 14th in property crime and 16th overall. This is impressive when you consider that Honolulu is the 11th-largest city and the HPD is the 16th-largest metropolitan police department in the nation.
Major events such as the Asian Development Bank Board of Governors meeting had the possibility of erupting into violent confrontations, as seen in other major cities such as Seattle. The HPD went to great lengths to prepare, including meeting with community organizations, to ensure that whatever problems occurred were minor ones and that everyone's rights and property were protected.
As the primary law enforcement agency for O'ahu, we provide coverage for the entire island, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, despite understaffing and officers' salaries that are far less than their Mainland counterparts.
This is the kind of information that inspires public confidence.
The HPD is not perfect; we do err. However, the men and women of this department are committed to serving and protecting our community. We will take our "lumps" when deserved, and these criticisms will make us stronger as a department. We ask that the editors of The Advertiser consider not only what they think is fair, but what is fair for the public and for our department as well.