Saturday, May 24, 2008


Followup call received from HPD on Taser video request

by Larry Geller

I got a phone call earlier this week in response to my request to the Honolulu Police Department to view the video taken by the Taser as it blasted a man who appeared to have had mental health issues (see: Police tase man with possible mental health issues). You'll recall that although he was surrounded by police officers, he was tased anyway.

It seems that the Chief is out of town, some other people are at meetings, the moon is in the wrong phase, or the monsoon is late in India, so I'm not likely to get permission to see the video. My question will be turned over to the HPD communication person.

Actually, the officer was quite knowledgeable about the Sunshine Law requirements, and said that some other police departments have made Taser videos available. But aside from the bit about people being unavailable (to which, of course, I suggested that someone must be in charge, who is that?), he did also say that it was being kept as evidence, and so is not available to be viewed. I pointed out that I could view a copy, and anyway, the Sunshine Law doesn't seem to provide that sort of exception.

But if they decide to keep it secret, I'm stuck. Unlike the Honolulu Advertiser's request to UH, I can't afford an attorney like Jeff Portnoy to break the public record loose.

Of course, I'll ask the Office of Information Practices for an opinion. With Les Kondo, the productive former director, shifted over to the PUC though, the backlog of cases at OIP may be growing. I'm still waiting for an opinion on my request for minutes of the illegal secret meeting held in September 2006 by the Procurement Policy Board.

And even if I get an opinion, I would still need to go to court to get the record. (sigh)



Are you SURE you can't afford Portnoy? Have you (or Common Cause) asked him?

Maybe he's willing to make a deal or go pro bono.

Good questions. I'm pretty sure I can't afford Portnoy, but I'm willing to be surprised. The issue came up a number of years ago when Portnoy was president of the Media Council. That was then, and a different issue.

There are other attorneys, I was really referring to Portnoy because he has handled the Advertiser's cases for so many years. The Advertiser is willing to invest to break public records loose, and that's a great thing.

Common Cause is just in formation and there has been no concensus yet on which issues to take up immediately. I'm hopeful that we'll see some vigorous activity. There has been a void in Hawaii for too long.

Let's see how HPD replies in writing, and what the OIP is willing to do in a reasonable time frame if HPD turns down the request.

I’ve always said that a lawyer could conduct a cottage industry in suing over Sunshine and UIPA violations since all cases won pay costs under the law. But 99.9% of attorneys in Hawai`i want to maintain their ability to work for corporate entities and developers so don’t want the fact that they worked in the public interest on their record- or at least that’s so here on Kaua`i.

Even with all the recent talk of how attorneys should be doing- and maybe should be required to do- more pro bono work, it’s almost never public interest cases they take on.

And the big loophole- one that Portnoy referred to in the UH case is that you can fight them for months, set up a “trial” that you can’t lose and that morning they will hand you the document- six months after it was relevant. Then you don’t get paid.

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