Charter amendment: Removal or suspension of Honolulu’s chief of police

What does it take to remove or suspend Honolulu’s police chief? Oahu voters will get a chance to help clear things up.

A charter amendment question appears on the ballot just as the department’s current chief is under fire.

“Should the Police Commission have greater authority to suspend or dismiss the chief of police and have additional powers to investigate complaints concerning officer misconduct, and should the chief of police be required to submit a written explanation for his or her disagreement with the Commission?”

This question is made up of three proposed changes. The first enables the Honolulu Police Commission to remove or suspend the police chief for any reason.

“One of the authorities the commission has is to remove the chief if there is cause, and right now the definition of cause is very vague in the charter,” explained Honolulu Police Commission chairman Ron Taketa, “so the amendment would clarify that, and also indicates that it lowers the bar on cause by saying any reason would be cause to remove a chief if the majority of commissioners wanted that to happen.”

Taketa believes the police chief would still be adequately protected.

“You still need four votes on the seven-member commission in order to take any action, so the majority of the commissioners would have to agree the chief would have to be disciplined before that occurred,” he said.

The second change would clarify that the police commission can subpoena witnesses.

Taketa says the police commission never needed subpoena power in the past, however “I think it’s good to have in the event you have a difficult case where witnesses don’t want to come forward. We haven’t had that yet, but I think it’s good to have.”

Lastly, if the police commission forwards a complaint to the chief, the chief would be required to respond in writing.

“The charter amendment would make it clear that the department is obligated to give us a written reason why they disagree with us,” Taketa said.

David Rae, Honolulu Charter Commission chair, says that portion was included “to make sure the public was aware of things that were going on and what happens to an investigation once it’s completed or moved forward.”

Rae says the charter commission has looked into the police union contract to make sure nothing in the amendment would violate the contract.

If you agree, you’ll want to vote “yes.”

Click here for more information.

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