The actions of the police are very much in the news these days, from the police shooting and subsequent street protests in Ferguson, Missouri, to the recent series of fatal police shootings here in Honolulu.
David Johnson, a UH Professor of Sociology who specializes in the study of criminology, law and social policy, addressed the issue of police accountability in an op-ed which appeared in Sunday’s Star-Advertiser (“Accountability must accompany police power“).
Police in Honolulu have shot and killed eight people in the past five years. This is, per capita, about double the national average of “justifiable killings” by police. As this newspaper has reported, police protocol in lethal force cases is “wholly internal” (“HPD transparency, oversight lacking,” Our View, Aug. 13). The names of officers who use lethal force are not released to the public, and neither are the results of the police department’s own internal investigations — unless someone is fired.
Civil Beat has also reported extensively on the lack of routine accountabilitywhen it comes to Hawaii’s police.
So I wondered whether the Honolulu Police Department provides information to assist someone who wants to file a complaint about a police officer’s actions or report unprofessional behavior.
I turned to the HPD website (http://honolulupd.org/).
It’s a pretty extensive site with lots of diverse information. the site map has more than 50 links to different kinds of information. You can read about the department’s history, get a list of former chiefs, see the patrol districts, learn about each police division, read statistical reports, get information on domestic violence, and read the department’s annual reports. You can get info on the police activities league, get a calendar of police events, learn about the Ride-Along program or the Police Museum, etc., etc.
What you won’t see is a direct link to information on complaints about police officers.
On my second time through the site, you can find the basic complaint procedures if you first click on the link titled simply “FAQ” for “frequently asked questions.”
And there, down at #4 in the list: “How do I file a complaint on an officer.”
A notarized statement is required as part of the police union’s collective bargaining agreement. Links to the forms are listed here under the Professional Standards Office section.
If you wish to remain anonymous, your complaint will be reviewed and/or investigated in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement and departmental policy.
You may mail a notarized statement to the above address or you may appear in person and a statement will be taken by a Professional Standards Office detective and notarized at that time. Be sure to bring a proper identification card (state ID, driver’s license, passport, etc.). [emphasis added]
Information about the Police Commission and its complaint process is also buried. You first have to click a link, “Department,” and then the last of five tabs, “Commission.” Of course, if you didn’t already know that one of the duties of the commission is to investigate charges by the public against the department or any of its officers, then you wouldn’t know that “Commission” would yield useful information.
And when I browsed the commission’s most recent annual report, I found the “Complaint Classification Guidelines,” essentially a list of do’s and don’ts of police behavior.
The report also contains some statistics regarding complaints, but nothing regarding the substance of complaints, even those that have been sustained following an investigation.
As Professor Johnson wrote in his op-ed:
In Hawaii, police accountability is all but absent because the Legislature has caved in to pressure from the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), the union that represents the state’s four city and county forces. Public reporting requirements for police in Hawaii are far more limited than those in most states. Under an exemption SHOPO received in 1995, police are merely required to send the Legislature an annual summary of cases in which an officer has been suspended or discharged for misconduct. Each summary is only a few words long, and there are no names, places or dates.
Not a good situation. The police should be accountable, and far more transparent.
Via – www.ilind.net