Lingle vetoes bill for police officers
The proposal clarifies language regarding legal representation
Gov. Linda Lingle has issued her first veto of the 2008 session, on a bill that aims to clarify when police officers must be represented by an attorney provided by the county they serve.
Lingle's veto of House Bill 987 was received by the Legislature yesterday.
The proposal did not receive a hearing this year.
It stalled in the House last year but was brought back at the beginning of this session and sent to the governor for her consideration.
The bill attempts to clarify "acts done in the performance of the officer's duty as a police officer" for purposes of determining if an officer who is prosecuted or sued must be represented by an attorney provided by the county.
The new language essentially covers all acts performed by an officer while on duty, off duty or on special-duty status.
Lingle contends the definition is too broad and could place counties in the position of having to defend an officer who conducts a criminal act.
"We recognize the need for officers to be provided with legal representation when in the performance of their duties," Lingle said in her written statement of objections to the bill. "However, there may be acts committed by a small minority of officers while in the performance of their duties that are not in the scope of an officer's authority as a police officer, i.e., activities such as the sale of narcotics, sexual assault, domestic violence, burglary."
The proposal was supported last year by the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.
Rep. Blake Oshiro, the House judiciary vice chairman, said the proposal was brought back this year as a show of support to police officers.
Regarding Lingle's concern, Oshiro said it is up to county police departments to screen candidates to ensure they are recruiting and hiring officers of strict moral character.
Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa) said it is too early to say whether the Legislature would consider overriding the veto. He said he expects to meet with the police officers union to see if a compromise proposal can be worked out.