Opinion Letter No. 04-05
February 23, 2004
Honolulu Police Commission Records
A member of the public requested access to records
of the Honolulu Police Commission (“Commission”) pertaining
to investigations of complaints against police officers convicted
of police brutality.
The Commission routinely destroys records after 30
months, and thus maintained no records responsive to the record
request. The OIP therefore provided the Commission with general
advice on how to respond to future similar requests.
First, although the Commission adopted a rule that
makes its investigative reports confidential, the rule is not a
“state law” for purposes of the UIPA and cannot be used
to avoid disclosure of records that are otherwise public under the
UIPA. The UIPA, not the Commission’s rules, dictates whether
its records of the investigations may be withheld.
Assuming the Commission maintains records pertaining
to a criminal conviction of a police officer, they are presumed
public under the UIPA, subject to the exceptions at section 92F-13,
HRS. Information about individuals mentioned in Commission investigations
may be withheld from public disclosure to the extent that disclosure
would constitute “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal
privacy” under section 92F-13(1), HRS.
In addition, agencies are not required to disclose
government records that must be confidential for the government
to avoid the frustration of a legitimate government function. Haw.
Rev. Stat. § 92F-13(3) (1993). This exception applies to certain
records or information compiled for law enforcement and other purposes.
Public information which is reasonably segregable from nonpublic
information, however, should be made available.
The decision of whether to deny access to investigative
records must be made on a case-by-case basis; and the OIP advised
the Commission to consult with the OIP or its own attorney upon
receipt of a record request.