So last week, The Maui News published another of those regular but all-too infrequent summaries of Maui Police discipline against its own. On June 24, the paper reported that the department busted five cops in March and April of this year, ranging in punishment from letters of reprimand to 10-day suspension and transfer–the latter of which fell on an officer for “breaching confidentiality and committing a criminal act in September.”
As usual, none of the officers names are included in the story (to say nothing of the exact nature of the above “criminal act” that got one Maui PD officer in trouble). This is, as we’ve reported before, because state law protects the identities of police officers who’ve been disciplined by their department. It still mandates that departments provide regular (if vague) summaries of discipline, but it can keep the names of those charged confidential.
Still, The Maui News story seemed a little thin for my taste, so I emailed Maui PD’s Lt. William Juan–their public information officer–asking him for a copy of the report The Maui News had used to prepare their June 24 story. His response surprised me:
“This information was given during the Police Commission meeting. There was no report. Only the statement that was provided by Maui News. The Police Commission meeting is open to the media if you want to attend.”
My mistake was in assuming that the Maui PD was putting these summaries of internal discipline into writing. In fact, according to Juan’s email, the information is only given verbally during Maui Police Commission meetings. Which wouldn’t be too bad, I suppose, if the Maui Police Commission kept verbatim meeting minutes. But they don’t.
I found that out when I went to the Maui Police Commission’s website, which keeps a few years worth of meeting agendas and minutes online, and discovered that the meeting minutes themselves are just summaries. That’s why I wasn’t surprised that even going back 18 months, to the Commission’s Jan. 16, 2013 meeting, I could find no mention of any disciplinary actions taken against MPD personnel (the minutes of the Commission’s June 18, 2014 meeting–when The Maui News presumably got their recent disciplinary information–are not yet online).
In any case, the next summary of police discipline we get might have a bit more information. That’s because on June 20–four days before the above story came out–Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed SB 2591 into law. That bill “Requires additional detail and updating for annual reports to the Legislature of police misconduct” and mandates that the departments retain disciplinary records for 18 months.
We’ll just have to wait and see whether that changes the way the Maui Police Department makes public information on internal disciplinary actions in a substantive way.
(Disclosure: MauiTime Owner/Publisher Tommy Russo is currently suing the County of Maui over an alleged assault by a Maui police officer.)
Photo: Wset10/Wikimedia Commons