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Monday, June 15, 2020
June 15, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:21 PM :: 856 Views

Feds: Civil Beat Publisher's Security Detail Sends Pig's Head to Media Critic

COVID Count: Five new cases out of 1,152 tests

Maui Planning Commission sneaks Hawaiian burial group’s motion onto agenda

How SHOPO keeps public from seeing police misconduct records

SA: … As it currently stands, if the tragedy in Minneapolis had happened here in Hawaii, you would not know the name of the officers involved unless and until they were charged criminally. You would not know whether the officers were ever subject to any prior misconduct complaints. This information currently is secret.

Here’s why.

Back in 1993, the Legislature determined that information about police misconduct resulting in suspension or firing was sufficiently serious that it should be open to public disclosure. Students in the University of Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) requested disciplinary records from the Honolulu Police Department.

After sitting on the request for six months and demanding $20,000 for a search of its records, HPD announced it intended to comply with the law. But before doing so, the police chief notified officials of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), the police union, and invited them to challenge the law, which they did. Leaders at City Hall, including city attorneys, joined in supporting SHOPO to keep the records secret.

In March 1994, then-Acting Circuit Judge John Lim heard arguments in the case involving SPJ’s request to release the records. SHOPO put on a big show of force, packing the courthouse with hundreds of off-duty police officers protesting disclosure. Nonetheless Lim ruled the public had a right to know, saying from the bench: “The public has a right to know, and therefore it does know and because it knows, it insists that its police officers observe individual rights and protections at the same time it serves the public and protects the public.”

Eventually, the Hawaii Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, would uphold the principle that the information was not protected by the Hawaii Constitution’s privacy provision and was subject to disclosure by the state’s open government law despite provisions in SHOPO labor contracts that such matters were confidential.

Since SHOPO and the city couldn’t win their case in the courts, they went to the Legislature. If the law wasn’t on their side, then their solution was to change the law. In 1995, state lawmakers, even as they spoke about accountability and openness, were more than willing to comply with the “SHOPO bill.” The bill exempted police officers from Hawaii law that gave the public the right to know critical information, such as the names of officers and the disciplinary actions taken. With strong backing by the Judiciary chairs in both House and Senate, the bill effectively denied public oversight to ensure that officers properly performed their duties. Then-Gov. Ben Cayetano failed to veto the bill.

Since then, we’ve learned the hard way that this secrecy regarding police misconduct contributes to corruption and public mistrust of local police forces….

Related: Confronting Police Abuse Requires Shifting Power From Police Unions

read … Legislature should let public see police misconduct records

Caldwell disagrees on extent of Police Commission’s authority

SA: … Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell believes the Police Commission has plenty of power to effect change in the Honolulu Police Department.

Two recently resigned commissioners and Police Chief Susan Ballard, however, hold an opposite interpretation of city law and believe the panel can exert little if any authority over HPD….

“I think the power to hire and fire the chief executive of any organization, both be it private or public sector, is a great power,” Caldwell said June 8.

“Usually with that power comes ways to set policy, so I support the Police Commission setting the policy … for the Police Department and then making sure that the chief implements those policies,” Caldwell said. “And if they don’t, they have the power to hire or fire.”

Caldwell added that he believes the commission’s powers were enhanced with passage by Oahu voters of a 2016 amendment to the Honolulu City Charter that made it clear the panel is authorized to hire and fire the chief at will, and gave it additional power to investigate misconduct by police officers.

“They have the power to subpoena, to read the complaints from the department, they review the annual budget, they review the annual report and they review and report on the performance of the chief,” Caldwell said. “And I believe that if the performance is not up to what it should be, they would take action to find another chief. These are real powers that have a real effect on how the Honolulu Police Department is managed.”

The city should see how that Charter change works out before considering whether additional authority should be conferred on the commission, Caldwell said. “At this point I think we should let the commission do its job.”…

Ballard stressed that she and HPD do seriously consider the recommendations by commissioners, “and we decide if it’s something we can do or something we cannot do.”

The Charter, in describing the role of the Police Commission, states, “Except for purposes of inquiry or as otherwise provided in this charter, neither the commission nor its members shall interfere in any way with the administrative affairs of the department.”

Levinson, on Tuesday, said Caldwell is technically correct that the commission does have the prerogative to fire the chief. “But I don’t agree with him that gives us policy-making authority.”

The Charter language in no way suggests that the commission should exert such authority, Levinson said. While in a private corporation, a board lays down policies for a chief executive officer to follow, “that’s not the way the Charter organizes the Police Department, and it isn’t a power that it gives the Police Commission.”

The power to hire, fire or discipline the chief “was not intended to give the commission policy- making powers,” Levinson said…. 

HPR: The Conversation: Police Reform In Hawaii

read … Caldwell disagrees on extent of Police Commission’s authority

Recent spike in COVID-19 cases will test Hawaii’s preparations

SA: … The state is undergoing a test of its ability to respond to potential outbreaks of the new coronavirus after a recent spike in the number of cases, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Sunday.

“This is the first test, as we see an increase,” he said Sunday morning, after the state had two consecutive days of double-digit increases in new coronavirus cases. “If (state health officials) are really on it, just like South Korea, just like Seoul, we should be able to bring it down. That’s what we are looking for in the next couple of days.”

Caldwell was referring to the 15 new cases Friday and 17 cases reported Saturday, which were the biggest single-day increases in the islands in nearly two months. Twelve of the cases from Friday and Saturday, however, involved only one household in Waipahu….

Later Sunday the state Department of Health reported five new cases, raising the statewide total of infections to 728. Sunday’s cases included four on Oahu and one on Hawaii island — that island’s first case in 2-1/2 weeks.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday that two cases on Oahu were travelers from Washington state and California, and both were in isolation.

Of the two other cases on Oahu, one involved a person at a low-income housing project who was a close contact of another person who had previously tested positive. The last person who tested positive on Oahu took a coronavirus test before a medical procedure, Anderson said. The state is still investigating that case.

On the Big Island the resident who tested positive lives on the island’s east side and was connected by contact tracing to a previous case in March, Anderson said. Hawaii island officials reported that the new case “seems to be very isolated and connected to a previous travel-related case.”…

read … Recent spike in COVID-19 cases will test Hawaii’s preparations

California's starting to reopen hotels. Hawaii just extended its shutdown

LAT: … Hopes that Hawaii would reopen anytime soon were dashed against the coral reefs last week. Gov. David Ige extended until Aug. 1 his order that requires out-of-state travelers who visit the Aloha State to remain under mandatory quarantine for 14 days. Visitors who leave their hotel rooms for food or a stroll on a beach could be arrested.

Contrast that with California, which last week gave the green light for hotels, gyms, hair salons and other retail businesses to reopen, provided they adhere to state-mandated rules. Visitor bureaus from wine country to desert spas have been telling visitors they're open for business….

read … California's starting to reopen hotels. Hawaii just extended its shutdown

Bankruptcies decline thanks to federal loan program

PBN: … Hawaii bankruptcies in June fell 22.2% to 112 from the same time in 2019 and have now been down four of five months this year, according to new data released by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Hawaii. It was the fewest number of filings in any month since 107 in February 2019 and the lowest total for any May since 2016, when there also were 112 filings. There were 144 filings in May 2019.

Through five months, state bankruptcies are off 11.2%.

The SBA’s PPP loan and the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan are the primary reason for the drop in bankruptcies, according to Eugene Tian, chief economist for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Hawaii received $2.9 billion from those programs, and at least 23,416 businesses received the funds as of May 30, according to Tian.

Tian said it’s hard to predict what will happen later this year with bankruptcies since it depends on whether more federal assistance will be coming.

“Without further federal assistance and the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, we may see a surge in unemployment as well as bankruptcies after June,” he said.….

read … Bankruptcies decline thanks to federal loan program

Bill could impact Aloha Stadium demolition, landfill operator says

SA: … The company that operates the only public construction and demolition landfill and recycling facility on Oahu said a proposal that would require a buffer zone around the construction or expansion of disposal facilities “would be a disaster for the construction industry” and “drive up costs for construction projects of all sizes, including the new Aloha Stadium development.”

Passage of Senate Bill 2386, introduced by Sen. Kai Kahele (D, Hilo) and part of a Senate Native Hawaiian Caucus package, would require at least a half-mile buffer zone around residences, schools and hospitals for the construction, modification, or expansion of a waste or disposal facility. In addition, it would prohibit any waste or disposal facility from being located in a conservation district, except in emergency circumstances.

PVT Land Co. president and CEO Albert Shigemura said the company, which operates a landfill in Nanakuli that is nearing its capacity, is seeking approval to expand to an adjacent 180-acre site it owns across Lualualei Naval Road. Once opened, Shigemura said, the new facility could have a life of 30 years. He said the buffer would be 750 feet on the southern boundary.

But Shigemura said, “If Senate Bill 2386 is passed into law, our company will be unable to accept material from the old Aloha Stadium demolition at our existing landfill and recycling facility. We will not have the space available to accept demolition materials from such a large project, as our existing landfill is expected to reach capacity in five years.”…

read … Bill could impact Aloha Stadium demolition, landfill operator says

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