HONOLULU (KHON2) — Transparency is what sparked the legislature to create the law enforcement officer review board in 2017. It reviews criminal investigations of officer-involved deaths.
“We provide a recommendation to the prosecutors either to recommend prosecution recommend further investigation or recommend not to prosecute,” said Gary Yabuta, Hawaii Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board chair.
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The board consists of eight members with criminal justice, medical and non-profit background, appoint by the Governor or Attorney General. Since July 2021, 31 deadly force cases have been reviewed. Including the shooting of Lindani Myeni in Nuuanu. In that case, the board found the investigation was fairly conducted and use of deadly force was justified.
“I think the board took a lot of responsibility and providing their perspective which might have been through a different lens than that of a law enforcement agency investigating that particular case,” Yabuta said.
The board’s time is coming to an end, since it was only meant to last five yeas. It’s set to expire on Thursday.
Lawmakers tried to make the board permanent, but the push didn’t make it through the legislative session. Lawmakers say with high profile deadly force cases in recent years and questions about public trust, the board is needed.
State Representative Adrian Tam introduced a bill to limit terms for the board members to four years and make the board permanent.
“We have to ensure public trust right now, especially after the things that have happened in the City with the Kaneshiro arrest and the Kealoha cases,” said Rep. Adrian Tam, (D) Ala Moana, Waikiki.
The Attorney General supported the measure, saying an addition of a law enforcement officer would give the board more expertise. While the police union was in strong opposition, citing that’ it points fingers and officers already go through investigations from prosecutors and police commissions.
“I understand their sentiment. However, at a time when there’s so much mistrust in our government, transparency has to be at the highest priority right now for many of us,” said Tam.
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Tam says other legislators are also looking at proposing the return of the board. The board is hoping for the same.