Flashback: Police Union on Public Records Law
UH journalism professor Gerald Kato recently dug up this old video that SHOPO, the Honolulu police officers’ union, made in 1995 during the fight over the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), or HRS 92F, which defined public records and codified the public’s right to access them in Hawaii. They argued that releasing police misconduct records would mean “the community as a whole would suffer.”
It’s quite a piece of work on many levels: as a Hawaii time capsule (the fashion!), as a quaint example of propoganda (the fake TV newscast!), and as a reminder of the mindset that law enforcement officers are a special class of government worker. A mindset that really hasn’t changed. While most laws presume that the police should be held to a higher standard, SHOPO lobbied that they deserved more protection. Recall that their salaries were excluded from the list of city employee salaries released in 2010.
The video emerged as part of a multi-part special report by Civil Beat, “In the Name of the Law,” focusing on police misconduct in Hawaii. Definitely worth a read.
But it had additional resonance for me, as this battle over 92F was going on when I was getting sucked back into journalism in college. After trying to flee newsroom burnout at UH Hilo, I ended up running the student newspaper there, then coming back to run the then-daily, then-independent student newspaper on the UH Manoa campus. There, our motley crew of troublemakers got into information access battles of our own (including with the campus security office, which fortunately worked with us most of the time).
Even after all that practical experience, it would take me four more years to get my journalism degree. I’m proud of that degree, and those crazy college newspaper days, even though I never had what it took be a journalist for a living. And I still enjoy putting on my muckraker hat from time to time, and still support sunshine laws and other transparency initiatives.