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Commission praises chief

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Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kea­loha is "meeting expectations" and is expected to improve on his job performance in the coming years, the Hono­lulu Police Commission concluded in a performance review released last week.

It is the first annual review of Kea­loha since he took over the 2,000-officer department in November 2009.

The seven commission members were each asked to complete an evaluation form judging Kea­loha’s performance in five areas: financial, leadership, managerial, police commission and community relations.

Kealoha scored a 3-out-of-5 average in all five categories, said Marc Til­ker, commission chairman. Under the scoring system, a 1 means "fails to meet expectations," a 2 means "improvement required," a 3 means "meets expectations," a 4 means exceeding expectations and a 5 means exemplary.

Remarks by Tilker were rosier than the report itself.

"The commission is highly pleased with Chief Kea­loha’s performance in his first year," he said in a news release. "He and we are committed to work together in enhancing his leadership areas where improvement will result in even better performance."

Tilker said Thursday if the judging criteria allowed for it, Kea­loha would have received a "meets expectations plus" grade.

"We thought he did a pretty good job against those five criteria," Til­ker said. "We factored in, obviously, a lot of things that happened during the course of the year, but basically we felt it was a good first year and there’s plenty of room to grow."

The "meeting expectations" marks are lower than the "exemplary" rankings predecessor Boisse Correa received from the commission in 2009, his last full year, using a similar scoring system. For Correa the commission cited lower crime rates. Commission members said they chose to replace Correa after he declined to commit to a five-year extension.

Kealoha’s first year was marked by publicity about a number of HPD officers running into trouble with the law. Among the allegations was that seven officers conspired to give overtime pay to two sergeants who worked in the Traffic Division. The case is set for trial March 28.

More recently, a police major was indicted by a federal grand jury for alleged extortion.

Those indiscretions factored into Kea­loha’s evaluation, but so too did "a lot of good things that happened" during the year, Til­ker said.

"I felt, and so did a lot of the commissioners, that (police officers) don’t get credit for all of those things in the news," he said.

The report cited Kea­loha’s Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders program, which targets high-school students, as an example of "good leadership." It also said that he promotes crime- and drug-prevention programs and worked to establish community partnerships.

Under a section titled "personal and professional traits," Kea­loha was give "satisfactory" marks versus "improvement desired."

The report said "the chief’s personal and professional traits are actually far above ‘satisfactory.’"

Kealoha declined to answer written questions about the evaluation. But in a written statement emailed to the Star-Advertiser, the chief said he appreciates the feedback.

"One of my goals is to continue to build and strengthen the department’s partnerships with the community," Kea­loha said. "My administration and I remain committed to making Hono­lulu the safest place to live, work and play."

During an interview following his anniversary in November, the man who rose from the rank of captain acknowledged he had a "steep learning curve" not helped by a tight budget that required him to furlough nonofficers in the department twice a month.

Kealoha has enjoyed a cordial relationship with the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, SHOPO, the union representing police officers. SHOPO President Tenari Maafala said he would concur with the marks the commission gave Kea­loha.

An open-door policy with Kea­loha has been a big plus, Maafala said.

"Morale is up and the officers feel happy," he said.

On the other hand, he said, "There’s always room for improvement."

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