Attorney Loretta A. Sheehan is a well-known figure in the Hawaii judicial system that began with her 24 years of service as a prosecutor with the City and County of Honolulu and later for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Although she moved to private practice several years ago, having joined the firm of Davis Levin Livingston, her recent appointment to the Honolulu Police Commission is a return to her public service roots.
She is the newest member of the commission and by far the most outspoken in her views as to its role within the police department. In a recent article published in the Star Advertiser she discussed her vision for the police commission, which is at odds with some of the other members. Ms. Sheehan explained her decision to accept the commission appointment due to her concerns as a private citizen that there isn’t enough transparency in the Honolulu Police Department and that her unique skills would help the commission better meet its obligation to the public.
Duty to the Public
Having worked closely with members of the police department when she worked as a city and county prosecutor, Ms. Sheehan understands the mindsets of those who put their lives on the line to keep the public safe. While she respects the work of the men and women within the department, she finds that the legal privacy laws do not allow public access to officer disciplinary procedures and she would like this to change.
While the Honolulu Police Department has not experienced the same turmoil as others across the country, Ms. Sheehan is concerned about claims that officers of color are not given the same levels of backup as others. In fact, the state recently settled for 4.7 million dollars in a case brought by three former officers and questions are now being raised that others who provided evidence in support of those claims are being treated the same.
“We Should Be Taking Steps”
Ms. Sheehan believes that the role of the Police Commission is to actively investigate these and other cases as well as evaluate the leadership within the department to assure that all officers and citizens receive appropriate levels of protection. Others on the commission view their role more narrowly and the topic has become one of vigorous debate among the commissioners. Some police commissioners want to wait for the FBI investigation into the department to conclude before making recommendations but Ms. Sheehan has a different opinion. In her interview with the Star Advertiser she stated, “We can’t wait for the FBI to resolve this. We should be taking steps to find out if there’s truth to the allegations.”
There is a proposed amendment to the city charter that would give the commissioners subpoena powers which Ms. Sheehan supports. If passed, she believes it will provide commissioners access to necessary documents that are currently unavailable them as well as confirm her stance that the commission has investigatory powers.
Ms. Sheehan’s appointment to the Honolulu Police Commission has invigorated a debate regarding its role within the system, which itself is important. She looks forward to serving the Honolulu in this capacity and hopes to bring greater transparency into the operations of the police department.