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Hawaii Police Union Sues Counties Over Disciplinary Name Disclosures

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii's statewide police union has filed lawsuits against the state's four counties in an effort to keep the names of officers fired or suspended for disciplinary reasons out of the public record while grievance proceedings are underway.

The two civil lawsuits filed Friday by the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers seek to have the names remain undisclosed until all grievance avenues for the officers have been exhausted, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

The lawsuits filed against against Hawaii and Maui counties following similar complaints filed earlier this month against the County of Kauai and City and County of Honolulu.

The lawsuits challenge a law enacted Sept. 15 by Democratic Gov. David Ige that places the disciplinary files of officers who are fired or suspended into the public record.

The police union argues the law violates the privacy rights of officers and the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the counties.

The lawsuits seek to have the law declared unconstitutional.

The law is arbitrary, unreasonable and has no substantial relation to public health, safety, morals or general welfare, the lawsuits claim.

Union President Malcolm Lutu did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Friday.

Hawaii Police Department Chief Paul Ferreira said Friday he had not been served with the lawsuit and subsequently could not comment. Ferreira said he planned to discuss the issue with the county's legal office after receiving the lawsuit.

Jeff Portnoy, a Honolulu attorney who represents the Tribune-Herald and other media outlets, said the union was trying to protect its officers from public disclosure.

“It’s hard to understand or believe that SHOPO would continue this unconstitutional battle to prevent the public from learning about bad police officers who commit bad acts,” Portnoy said.

Union arguments that releasing the names violates the privacy of disciplined police officers or subjects them to potential harm have either been refuted or have no basis, Portnoy said.

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