Police input could have made a difference in hotly-debated bail reform bill, experts say
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - None of the four police departments in Hawaii submitted testimony against legislation that would allow some defendants to be free without bail.
Supporters said the proposal will end the jailing of impoverished, non-violent offenders but critics compare the bill to a “get out of jail free” card.
The majority of the written testimony was in support of the measure that has passed the legislature.
The opposition included the Attorney General’s office and the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office.
The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers was shocked that none of the departments’ leaders participated in the process.
“It is a concern,” said Robert Cavaco, president of SHOPO.
“You would think the four departments in the state would really truly care about what the legislators are trying to do.”
State Rep. Scot Matayoshi, who introduced the measure, said no one from the Honolulu, Maui, Kauai or Hawaii County police departments ever reached out.
“The police departments weighing in might have made a difference,” Matayoshi said, adding discussions with city Prosecutor Steve Alm did result in additional restrictions for some defendants.
Matayoshi, vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, also said they worked with retail operators to limit the release of select defendants who commit theft.
He said currently those who cannot afford bail are subject to jail while others who commit the exact same crime are allowed to remain free simply because they have more money.
Both defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty.
The bill does give judges discretion if the defendant presents a “risk of danger to any other person or to the community” but Cavaco said detectives have complained to SHOPO that judges don’t do enough when setting bail amounts and many suspects re-offend.
Cavaco said lawmakers are simply using the measure as a way to avoid building a new jail to replace the outdated and overcrowded Oahu Community Correctional Center.
Gov. David Ige has not indicated if he will sign or veto the bill.
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