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Honolulu Newspaper Studies Police Officer Misconduct

On Tuesday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported the results of its survey:

"Nearly 1 of every 6 current Honolulu Police Department officers have been taken to court over criminal or civil allegations of wrongdoing, ranging from excessive force to domestic abuse, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Just since 2010, an officer has been arrested or prosecuted at the rate of one every 5.7 weeks... more than 330 officers, or nearly 16 percent of the 2,100-member squad, have been named as defendants in criminal cases, temporary restraining orders and wrongful-conduct lawsuits since joining the force. Most of the lawsuits alleged on-duty civil rights violations, while most of the TROs involved off-duty conduct... about 5 percent of officers account for a disproportionate share of complaints against police..."

Some convictions have resulted:

"Of the 55 criminal cases from the past six years that the newspaper examined, more than half resulted in convictions or deferred pleas of guilty or no contest. The deferrals give the defendants the opportunity to keep their records clean if they stay out of trouble for a certain length of time. Most of the 18 officers whose pleas were deferred remain on the job. Only one of the 14 who were convicted is still an HPD officer."

How this compares to other cities in the United States:

"Although the department has not been hit by the racial strife over high-profile fatalities that has rocked some mainland police forces, it has had a steady dose of controversial cases, including ones that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements... Although the Star-Advertiser was unable to compare HPD’s 1-in-6 ratio with rates at other comparable departments, it was able to crunch numbers from a recent national study that Stinson and several of his Bowling Green colleagues published on officer arrests. HPD did not fare well. Using Google-based searches of news articles, the researchers compiled data on arrests from 2005 to 2011 involving officers at hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country. Based on those data, HPD had the 10th-worst rate per 100,000 population among the more than 80 police departments with at least 1,000 full-time officers. It was 11th worst on a per-1,000 officers basis."

Kudos to the Star-Advertiser for an informative report. Transparency matters. Accountability matters.

Read the Bowling Green State University (BGSU) announcement about the April, 2016 study by Philip Matthew Stinson, Sr., J.D, Ph.D. and associates titled, "Police Integrity Lost: A Study of Law Enforcement Officers Arrested" (Adobe PDF).

The Star-Advertiser's report seems to highlight an opportunity for newspapers across the United States. I am sure that readers are curious about how their local police department rates. Ideally, follow-up studies will also include data about convictions. What do you think?

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