Council considers giving police commission more power to hold chief accountable

The Honolulu City Council approved yet another big settlement Wednesday linked to a triple-fatal crash in Kakaako.
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 5:38 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2022 at 6:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu City Council approved yet another big settlement Wednesday linked to a triple-fatal crash in Kakaako.

So far, taxpayers have paid out about $15 million in the wake of the 2019 crash.

The deaths and injuries were partly blamed on an improper police chase. The intoxicated driver was speeding away from a pursuing police vehicle when he plowed into a group of pedestrians.

The crash is among the reasons the council is pursuing a plan give the police commission more power to oversee HPD’s police chief.

“I want to give them a little bit more power to say, hey, you can censure the chief, you can suspend the chief with or without pay if they don’t listen to the commission,” said City Council Chair Tommy Waters, who introduced the resolution Wednesday.

Waters said that the chief will need to please the commission, and the result could be more training and overall accountability.

The chair said he is also dismayed that two years after the Kakaako crash, another unauthorized police chase in Makaha nearly killed several young people.

“At this point, I haven’t seen it get much better,” said Waters.

“The police misconduct, the lack of training, the lawsuits, there’s so much money being spent that doesn’t have to be spent if we focus on training,” said Ken Lawson, a University of Hawaii law expert.

“But you also have to be able to say that if you’re not going to do it, we’re going to hold you accountable. That’s what was missing.”

Lawson said past chiefs have sometimes totally disregarded the police commission.

“The chiefs in the past have had an arrogance about them,” he said.

“Like, ‘don’t tell me how to do my job. Don’t tell us how to police.’ It is almost like coming to the commission for a police chief is like going to the dentist.”

Lawson believes the commission is made up of the right people, who just don’t have the power right now for real change.

Because Waters’ proposals would change the city charter, voters will likely have the chance to approve the reforms in the 2022 general election.

The police union said they hope the council will consult with officers before they put it on the ballot.

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