Posted on Nov 24, 1998 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 98-05
November 24, 1998
Honolulu Police Department Request for Opinion on The Honolulu Advertiser Request for Internal Affairs Reports

[OIP Op. Ltr. No. 05-03 partially overrules this opinion to the extent that it states or implies that the UIPA’s privacy exception in section 92F-13(1), HRS, either prohibits public disclosure or mandates confidentiality.]

Honolulu Police Department (“HPD”) Internal Affairs administrative investigation reports (“administrative investigation reports”), which are used to determine whether employee misconduct has occurred and whether discipline should be imposed in personnel matters, must be disclosed in redacted form.

Information which indentifies complainants and witnesses and certain personnel information is excepted from disclosure under section 92F-13, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which protects information which, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, and would impair the HPD’s ability to conduct a full and accurate investigation.

In addition, a subject employee’s statement within an administrative investigation report is excepted from disclosure under section 92F-13, Hawaii Revised Statutes, as information that, by its nature, must be confidential in order for the government to avoid the frustration of the legitimate government function of preserving an individual’s constitutional right against self-incrimination and of conducting a full and accurate investigation of any alleged misconduct.

When segregating individually identifiable information excepted from disclosure, the HPD should redact any information that would result in the likelihood of actual identification. What constitutes identifying information must be determined not only from the standpoint of the public, but also from that of persons familiar with the circumstances involved. Where a request for disclosure identifies the record by officer name and incident, and confidentiality of the officer’s identity is asserted, the OIP advised that the HPD respond by neither confirming nor denying the accuracy of the statement that the officer named is the subject officer. Where the HPD and a subject employee publicly disclosed information to the news media, they waived their exceptions to disclosure as to the information disclosed.

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