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Reporter’s police beat became HPD job

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Wes Young was equally at ease with both cops and reporters and one of those rare people admired by people in both circles.

It is little wonder since the one-time "dean of cop reporters" changed hats midlife to become the Honolulu Police Department’s first public information officer.

Young, 88, of Hawaii Kai, died Jan. 24 at the Queen’s Medical Center.

Born in Elwood City, Pa., Young served in the Navy and came through Hawaii during World War II. After graduating from the University of Miami in 1950, he returned to Hawaii to work for the Honolulu Advertiser. From 1960 to 1969, he was a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. During most of that time, he covered the police beat.

New to Hawaii and journalism when she began at the Star-Bulletin in 1961, veteran reporter Mary Adamski said she appreciated being able to come under Young’s tutelage — both in the ways of cops and of Hawaii.

"He taught me how to take your time and get to know people, and to seek more information — don’t just take information from one person and try to push it," said Adamski, who herself retired last year just shy of 50 years.

"He was so low-key. He was not a braggart, and he definitely had the trust of policemen," she said. "It was not like he would try to make a story before it was ready to go."

Adamski noted that Young covered the cops beat at the height of Chinatown gambling and organized crime and was able to break stories because of the trust he gained with officers. "They trusted him because he was an honest man," she said.

When Francis Keala became police chief in 1970, he publicly acknowledged organized crime as a problem in Hawaii, Adamski said. It was Young, who once led the way as a reporter in investigating syndicate activities, who was there to help persuade and mobilize the public to help in the fight against the criminal underworld, she said.

Keala said rank-and-file officers liked Young so much that many of them wanted him to be one of their own — and he did as HPD’s first public information officer in 1969.

While Young had a job to do as a news reporter, he kept in mind the sensitive nature of his role and the impact it might have, especially if he put out the wrong information at the wrong time, Keala said.

As an employee, the chief recalled Young as hard-working, honest and simply likable.

"Just the way he talked to people," the former chief said.

Adamski said, "There was no such thing as an eight-hour day for him; if something broke at night, he would be there." And he was a welcome sight to officers and reporters once he got there, she added. "He knew what reporters wanted of him and he kept us off the backs of policemen who didn’t have to break the stride of their investigation to talk to us."

Young retired in 1987 and was active with the Kilohana United Methodist Church, including an annual weeklong work mission to Kalaupapa.

Thomas Young said his father, who had been suffering from emphysema, died in his sleep.

Young is survived by Frances, his wife of 57 years; son Thomas and his wife, Cecilia; granddaughter Heather; brothers George of England and Richard of Elwood City, Pa.; sister Nancy Bernstein of Melbourne, Fla.; and nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 12 at Kilohana United Methodist Church in Niu Valley. A private service will be held Feb. 14 at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl. Mililani Memorial Park Mortuary is handling arrangements.

 

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