Posted on Feb 21, 1997 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 97-01
February 21, 1997
Names of Suspended Police Officers Are Public

[Note:  This opinion was overruled by Peer News LLC v. City and County of Honolulu, 138 Haw. 53, 376 P.3d 1 (2016).]

In 1995 the Legislature passed Act 242 that recognized suspended police officers’ significant privacy interest in information about on-the-job misconduct resulting in their suspensions. However, this Act still required the suspended officers’ privacy interest to be balanced against the public’s interest in the disclosure of the misconduct information. Hence, if the public’s interest outweighed the suspended officers’ privacy interest, the information was required to be disclosed.

In 1996 the Hawaii Supreme Court decided SHOPO v. SPJ, 83 Haw. 378, and found that information about police officers’ on-the-job misconduct was not highly intimate nor personal. The Hawaii Supreme Court, thus, concluded that this information was not protected by the Hawaii Constitution’s right to privacy.

Given the tensions among the legislative intent of Act 242, the SHOPO decision, and the overall purpose of the UIPA, the OIP weighed the competing interests as required by Act 242. The OIP concluded that the public’s interests outweighed the suspended police officers’ privacy interest in information about on-the -job misconduct resulting in their suspensions. Because no exception to disclosure applied to this information, the UIPA would require the HPD to disclose this information.01

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