When Hawaii’s new police shooting board began its work this summer, it already had a full plate.Four fatal shootings were waiting to be reviewed by August, with three of them involving the Honolulu Police Department (HPD).
Two months later, the number of HPD-involved fatal shootings in 2018 has doubled to six, the most ever in recent history, prompting concern among criminal justice experts about whether they’re seeing an overall trend of more violence in the Aloha State.
It is not known if any of the six men killed were using drugs or alcohol at the time of their deaths. HPD has declined to provide details because the cases are still under investigation and they declined requests to be interviewed about the shootings for this story.
For years, the police department has tried to address encounters officers have had with mentally ill and drug-addicted individuals. In 2006, the HPD began consulting with three on-duty psychologists when encountering someone who appeared to be mentally ill. By 2008, HPD officers had placed about 26,000 calls to the on-duty psychologists. This year, the department has been part of a new initiative to divert the mentally ill who have not committed a crime but appear to be in crisis.
Launched in April, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program has yet to divert anyone. Out of the HPD came the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. The concept has worked well for police departments that had growing numbers of officer-involved shootings. In Miami, for example, fatal shootings have gone down since 2010 and the number of mental health-related calls resulted in far fewer arrests, also saving millions of dollars for taxpayers.