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ACLU: Why did Police Leave Rifle Unattended?
By News Release @ 12:23 AM :: 1523 Views :: Police

ACLU OF HAWAIʻI ISSUES STATEMENT ON POLICE VIOLENCE & USE OF FORCE AFTER LATEST SHOOTING

News Release from ACLU of Hawaiʻi, June 28, 2023 

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi: The American Civil Liberties of Hawaiʻi has issued a statement in response to reports of the latest deadly police shooting in Pearl City, Oʻahu on Friday afternoon, which left one man dead after picking up an unattended Honolulu Police Department rifle.

According to data compiled by Civil Beat from police and prosecutor reports, medical examiner records, and news accounts, this is the fifth fatal incident of police violence in the state this year.1

Scott Greenwood, ACLU of Hawaiʻi Executive Director, highlighted concerns over HPD’s weapons security practices, policies on body-worn cameras, and the escalating incidence of police use of force across the state in the following statement:

“The information released by HPD regarding this latest incident of deadly police violence on Oʻahu is alarming. There is no excuse for anyone gaining access to an unattended police weapon. It demonstrates an incredibly neglectful and reckless weapons security practice on the part of HPD.

The body-worn camera (BWC) policies referenced by Honolulu Police Chief Joe Logan in Friday’s press conference are also extremely concerning. The fact that HPD’s Specialized Services Division (SSD) officers “do not carry/are not issued body-worn cameras” is a serious policy defect. BWCs aren’t typically deployed on plainclothes detectives or undercover officers in other jurisdictions, even though they should be. However, most agencies' best practices require tactical unit officers to wear them.

While not a panacea for eliminating unnecessary use of force, in dynamic situations, this footage is the best evidence of whether a particular response was both necessary and constitutional. Unless and until the footage from Friday’s shooting is produced, we have zero information about whether the subject picking up an unattended rifle meant he was pointing it at anyone. HPD created the opportunity for this to escalate and end the way it did.”

“This fatal police shooting is yet another tragic example of a pattern of escalating use of force outlined in the recent report “On The Use of Force by Honolulu Police” released by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Sociology,” said Carrie Ann Shirota, ACLU of Hawaiʻi Policy Director.2

While the specifics of this latest shooting are still under investigation, several reports of police violence across the state this year, including the killing of Nathaniel Nāki on Molokaʻi in March, and Christopher Alan Ferreira on Hawai’i island in January indicate an alarming trend. Around 25% of people killed by police show signs of mental illness, according to one study by the Washington Post. “We are far too reliant on law enforcement and the criminal legal system in responding to domestic disturbances and public health crises, including mental illness, substance use, and poverty,” added Shirota.

The ACLU of Hawai’i calls for the creation of crisis response mobile teams trained in behavioral health and harm reduction strategies. Alternative civilian community responder models that don’t include police as first responders are being developed in jurisdictions nationwide and are in alignment with President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices.

“We urgently need infrastructure, policies, and community-based programs that effectively address the root causes of crime and violence and provide for the unmet needs of community members. Long-term investment in housing, healthcare, education, and jobs is also essential in building genuine community safety. Legislators also need to pass clear, uniform, state-wide guidance based on best practices to ensure law enforcement has consistent policies for using body-worn cameras and use of force,” said Shirota.

The ACLU of Hawaiʻi also demands that HPD immediately release all BWC footage from all on-scene officers in this latest shooting. In their own body-worn camera (BWC) policy, HPD states that “transparency is critical in establishing public trust.” Anything less exacerbates concerns about transparency and accountability in policing,” notes Greenwood.

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SA Editorial: HPD must reckon with greater risks

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