It’s not a subject we like to think about. We employ police officers to protect and serve us (that’s what it usually says on the side of the squad car), and the thought that rogue officers run around committing crimes (involving drugs, prostitution, gambling or murder) may make for great pulp novels (a subject I’m intimately familiar with) but generally scares the hell out of the public.
Most citizens and especially reporters believe in transparency and disclosure. That means the public should know which police officers have been busted by Internal Affairs for misconduct. We should know the gravity of the misconduct, the seriousness of the sanction and, most importantly, why this particular officer is still in uniform. Yet here in Hawaii, no member of the public has access to this information because state law (written largely with the help of SHOPO, the powerful police officers’ union) exempted cops from having the names of those sanctioned by IA made public.
I wrote about this subject back in June 2011 (click here for that story). Now Civil Beat has thrown vaster more resources at the subject, and come up with what looks like a huge series of stories, video, charts and historical analysis. One of the key findings from Monday’s postings: many of the annual, state-mandated police misconduct summary reports (which contain no names or details of the actual incidents of police misconduct) from the various police departments around Hawaii are “nowhere to be found.”
Anyway, click here for the Civil Beat page on Police Misconduct. It should be a hell of a ride.
UPDATE, Feb. 26:
When I wrote about my 2011 MauiTime story on the state law that protects bad cops’ identities, I tried to get a comment from SHOPO, the powerful state police officers’ union. They ignored my request for comment, and I went ahead with the story. So I thought it funny when I read this new Civil Beat story posted today in their police misconduct series:
“Civil Beat tried numerous times over the past six months to interview SHOPO officials. None would agree to an interview and didn’t return more recent calls asking again for an interview.”
Of course not! Why should SHOPO return any the call of any reporter who intends to write something other than how all police officers everywhere are guardians of peace and justice? I would be shocked if anyone at SHOPO gave a damn about anything Civil Beat (or myself, for that matter) published.
Put simply, they behave as though they own the state Legislature. Given the fact that they were able to win a special exemption for cops from the state public records law back in the early 1990s, and that no one even attempts to get rid of that loathsome exemption, I’d say that they probably still do.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons