Honolulu police vow to be more transparent after shootings

HONOLULU — The Honolulu Police Department says it is making changes to be more transparent and address use of force tactics.

The department will hold news conferences within 24 hours of all shootings involving officers, implement training changes including emphasizing de-escalation and cultural sensitivity and enact a near-total ban on shooting in vehicles, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

Interim Chief Rade K. Vanic announced the changes in response to questions earlier this week from the City Council’s executive matters and legal affairs committee.

“It’s good to know you folks are taking this stuff seriously and you are going to provide better training,” Council Chair Tommy Waters told Vanic during the meeting.

The announcement came after police shot and killed a 29-year-old Black man and a Micronesian teen in separate incidents. Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven Alm this week announced murder and attempted murder charges against three officers in connection with the shooting of the teen.

Police said 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap was driving a stolen car linked to an armed robbery, burglary, purse snatching and car theft and led officers on a chase before the shooting.

Officers shot into the car from the sides and rear as it sat on a street after the chase, according to court documents.

It is the first time a police officer has been charged with a crime in connection with a police shooting in at least 45 years, the newspaper reported.

An Oahu grand jury declined to indict the officers in the incident last week.

Alm’s office is also investigating the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Lindani Myeni.

Myeni, a former rugby player from South Africa, is shown on video entering and then leaving a home in Honolulu before encountering police. A seemingly frightened resident inside the home called 911 and Lindani then fought with three officers.

Video shows one officer fired a stun gun after yelling “Taser” before police shot and killed Myeni as he fought. After the shots were fired an officer is heard saying, “Police!”

Myeni did not have any weapons at the time of the shooting.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Waters asked the interim chief about the case.

“Your predecessor said this was a burglary but it clearly wasn’t,” Waters said, referring to newly released video footage of the incident. “My concern is the Ring doorbell was in HPD’s possession.”

“I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but there are definitely things a camera does not show,” Vanic said. “When officers are at a scene and they are dealing with potentially life-or-death situations, they sometimes have only seconds to react.”

One of the three officers who fought with Myeni was injured and remains on leave, the Star-Advertiser reported.

The changes the police are making include prioritizing de-escalation tactics, restrictions on the use of vascular neck restraints and a ban on shooting into a vehicle unless it’s being used as a weapon or suspects inside are firing guns at people.

Another measure will require officers to intervene when they see a colleague breaking the law or violating department policy.

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