Police shooting review board will resume work after a year-long pause

Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 6:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The board tasked with reviewing officer-involved shootings in Hawaii is ready to resume meetings after a pause due to COVID.

The Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board was created in 2017 by the legislature to take a closer look at police related deaths.

Former State Sen. Will Espero introduced the legislation that created the oversight group made up of appointed volunteers, which include a former judge, prosecutors, and retired police officers.

“Have independent eyes look at the situation and make certain that everything was proper, done properly,” Espero said.

“I’d like to think that in the vast majority of these cases, if not all of them, the shooting was proper but that’s why we have this to make certain.”

The board had only reviewed two cases ahead of the pandemic and a member retired.

“The coordinator from the state attorney general’s office had retired in November, it all kind of culminated in this delay,” said member Gary Yabuta, who retired as chief of the Maui Police Department.

But, Yabuta said the group is ready to start meeting again, virtually.

“I can assure you that the board is anxious to get it started and start reviewing cases which need to be reviewed for the good of the state,” Yabuta said.

Yabuta also said they realize they have a lot of work to do -- with three fatal HPD shootings in just the last five months.

The Honolulu Prosecutor’s office also reviews all officer involved shootings for possible criminal charges against the officers.

Since 2008, none has resulted in charges.

“The Honolulu Police Department will send all of those cases over to us for review even if they feel that the shooting was a justified shooting, they’ll still send over to us for an independent review on that case,” said First Deputy Prosecutor Tom Brady.

Brady said they haven’t received the two cases from this month yet but expect that to happen in the next few weeks.

Prosecutors do not review whether proper police procedures were followed -- that is still left to the departments.

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