Open records win for Hawaii students

HAWAII — Student journalists won a big open records victory in November when the state supreme court ruled that the police department must provide access to the names of disciplined or suspended police officers.The unanimous decision in State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers v. Society of Professional Journalists, 927 P.2d 386 (Haw. 1996), wrapped up years of court proceedings.The police department must now hand over all the names of the officers in question from 1991-1995.The University of Hawaii Society of Professional Journalists asked for the information in 1993. In 1995, in the midst of the case, the state legislature amended the open records law to exempt police officers’ disciplinary records. Now journalists say they want the legislature to remove the exemption so they will be able to access the information in future years as well.The supreme court also broadly ruled that union agreements reached with the state cannot supersede state open records laws.Lawyers for the police union say they will discuss with the union’s board of directors the possibility of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.