We wrote last fall
about how the Hawaii news site Honolulu Civil Beat was spawning a separate legal aid clinic to help the public — or even other news organizations — fight for better records access. (Civil Beat is probably best known as the other nonprofit news site
Pierre Omidyar started and backs.)
Well, the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest just fought and won its first case.
For nearly 20 years, Hawaii police officers who were suspended for misconduct have been able to hide behind an exemption in the state’s public records law that prevents officials from releasing their names and details of disciplinary actions.
The public also has been prohibited from finding out whether police officials are handling discipline properly, whether it’s effective, and whether the public safety is being compromised. Even cops who have committed serious crimes have been allowed to remain anonymous.
But on Monday, in a case brought by Civil Beat, Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled that police cannot be above the law when it comes to disclosure of their misconduct.
Sakamoto said police officers have no right to privacy when it comes to getting in trouble. The judge also reaffirmed the public’s interest in scrutinizing government officials, especially those with a badge.
Feel free to send this post around to your local billionaires to see if they’re interested in funding something similar in your community.