Senator Recommends Charter Amendments on Police Commission

State Senator Will Espero (Dist. 19 – ʻEwa, Ocean Pointe, ʻEwa by Gentry, Iroquois Point) testified on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 before the City and County of Honolulu’s Charter Commission at Honolulu Hale asking the commissioners to consider two charter amendments to be voted on by the public next year.

Honolulu Police Commission

The first amendment would give the Police Commission the power and authority to punish and penalize police officers for police misconduct or bad behavior. Currently, the Police Commission can sustain a complaint against an officer, but only the Police Department has the authority to discipline an officer.

If the department disagrees with the Police Commission findings, it can choose to disregard the Police Commission decision. The Charter does state that the Commission cannot interfere in the administrative affairs of the department.

This was the case regarding John Helms III and his friend who were hiking and were assaulted by police officers due to being misidentified by the police. Following a lawsuit, the C & C did give the hikers a settlement, and it is our understanding the police officers involved were not punished.

The second amendment would allow the mayor to terminate the employment of the police chief with the majority support of the Police Commission. Currently, the Police Commission hires and fires the police chief. As the Mayor is the head of the county government and can fire other department heads, he should be able to do the same with the police and fire chiefs with the support of the hiring authority.

“These two charter amendments will strengthen civilian oversight of our police department,” said Sen. Espero. “If passed, they will also help to rebuild public trust and confidence in the police department, which has been plagued by an increasing number of police-involved crimes and negative stories over the past few years.”

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