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After examining two recently published reviews, a Honolulu City Council committee looked at ways to better monitor the Honolulu Police Department and criticized the District Attorney’s department for its “utter lack of leadership.”
The City Council’s Executive Committee on Affairs and Law spent about two hours on Wednesday reviewing the exams – one from the police department and the other from the prosecutor’s office – by the city inspector’s office. Both examined the departments’ respective policies, procedures and controls that determine how to deal with potential internal misconduct.
The committee asked follow-up questions to representatives from HPD, led by Police Commissioner Susan Ballard, and the city inspector’s office, which included acting city inspector Troy Shimasaki.
While Ballard has received praise for being open to departmental changes, it is clear that HPD still has a long way to go to rectify the wrongdoing of officials.
The HPD audit found that its ability to respond to wrongdoing had accumulated useful data, but preventing wrongdoing at all is not a good thing.
The meeting included a laundry list of topics ranging from police officers’ ability to report the wrongdoing of other officers to better analysis of wrongdoing data. Part of the meeting was a discussion on improving oversight of the HPD, and Ballard came up with the idea of having a more independent police commission in Honolulu.
“As long as the police commission is part of the Honolulu Police Department, I think there may be some problems there,” Ballard said. “I think they have to be chartered out of the police department so they have their own budget, they have their own attitudes (procedures) … so they don’t have to come to HPD for everything because then people see it as they do I am part of us. “
The Police Commission appoints and may remove the police chief, reviews HPD rules, regulations and annual budgets drawn up by the chief, and handles complaints filed by the public about HPD.
However, according to Councilor Ron Menor, chairman of the EMLA committee, the budget of the commission falls within the budget of the police department, which could lead to conflict.
“The police formulate the budget for the police commission,” Menor told the Honolulu Star Advertiser. “If the Police Commission feels they need more staff or more resources to be more effective in oversight, it could be very difficult to do.”
Menor likened the possible move to the amendments to the Honolulu City Charter, passed in this year’s election, which gave Honolulu Ethics Committee more independence from the city government.
The city’s auditor’s office also recommended that the city council set up a commission to conduct annual appraisals of the prosecutor.
The Police Commission withheld a comment on Wednesday’s city council meeting to give their commissioners time to look at it, but Chairwoman Shannon Alivado said the commission would likely not benefit from becoming more independent.
Alivado understands the potential problem but said there has been no battle for resources recently and that the independence of the commission has been preserved.
“Operationally, we are independent of the police. We’re hiring our own investigators. We conduct our examinations separately from HPD. Complaints directed to our office never have to go through an intake process that goes through HPD, ”she said.
The committee also addressed HPD’s complaints process, which the audit said could “send a message that penalties and punishments can be reduced rather than avoiding wrongdoing.”
From 2015 to 2019, 22% of disciplinary action – usually suspensions or dismissals – was reduced following a complaints procedure made available to police officers under HPD’s collective agreement with the Police Union, the organization that organizes the state of Hawaii law enforcement officers.
When asked if there is a need to make changes to the collective agreement, Ballard said police officers have a right to due process during the complaint process.
It is noteworthy that the committee meeting was absent from the prosecutor’s office, including acting prosecutor Dwight Nadamoto – a fact that Menor saw.
Menor said, “It comes as no surprise to me that neither he (Nadamoto) nor a public prosecutor’s representative bothered to appear to respond to our auditor’s report.”
Despite the high profile Kealoha scandal involving former assistant prosecutor Katherine Kealoha and her husband, former police chief Louis Kealoha, who initiated both exams, the prosecutor’s policies, procedures and controls have not changed significantly and more has to be done “the city inspector’s report said,” and the department “continues to follow older versions of their policies and procedures established by former administrators. “
Menor said he was dissatisfied with the ministry’s responses to the council’s concerns, as well as saying that it “does not provide a full assessment” of the situation that allows corruption.
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s department said the department had not been informed of the meeting and that her absence on Wednesday was not intended.
Menor still has high hopes for the prosecution as Nadamoto is replaced by elected prosecutor Steve Alm on Jan. 2.