Hawaii lawmakers advance police reform bill that’s been years in the making

Bill aimed at police reform passes a major hurdle, but not without opposition

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amid nationwide calls for change, Hawaii state lawmakers advanced a bill Wednesday that would make the names of police officers suspended or fired public.

“This issue has been a long time coming,” said state Rep. Aaron Johanson.

Some lawmakers have tried to get the measure passed, but have been met with resistance from the police union and supporters.

But this year, in an abbreviated three-week session, some lawmakers said this legislation was a priority.

That’s especially given the current climate of nationwide demand for more transparency and reform.

State Sen. Kurt Fevella was the only one on the committee to express concern that the change would hurt recruiting and embarrass those officers.

“How is this going to help us recruit and make public safety safe?” Fevella asked his fellow lawmakers.

An exchange with state Sen. Karl Rhoads followed:

“County police officers have a special exception that doesn’t even apply to ACOs (adult corrections officers) or to the sheriff’s department or anyone else who carries a gun as part of their duties. They have a special deal and the primary thing that this bill does is say we’re going to treat you like everybody else,” Rhoads said.

Fevella responded, “And so ACOs are not like law enforcement, they’re security guards. "

Rhoads said, “Well, the sheriffs are certainly law enforcement.”

The exchange ended and the vote was taken. All the conference committee members from the House and Senate voted “yes” except Fevella who voted “no.”

The bill now goes to the full Legislature.

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