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Honolulu Police Department hires a public relations firm

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The Honolulu Police Department will pay a public relations firm about $125,000 over a year to train its two police public relations professionals as well as leaders and officers.

A contract signed March 18 says Bennet Group Strategic Communications will provide the training, Hawaii News Now reported Friday.

The contract also includes research, branding advice, strategic planning and $230-an-hour crisis communications services.

State Sen. Will Espero has been critical of department leadership.

“You could spend $1 million on publicity and PR, but it’s not going to change the way the public feels or the perception that they have as long as the status quo is not changed or improved,” he said.

Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, have faced criticism related to court cases involving disputes with family members.

One case was dropped after the chief’s testimony caused a mistrial. A lawyer in that case voiced concerns about potential police misconduct related to the investigation.

The chief has said he did nothing wrong.

Deputy Chief Marie McCauley said in a statement that the department is “working with Bennet Group to help us expand our team’s capacity to communicate clearly and effectively to our community as we protect and serve.”

City Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said it’s the first time the department has hired its own PR firm.

“I wonder about the need for the Police Department to have its own public relations firm and whether we can pool our resources,” she said.

Comments (27)

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  • Where are they getting the money from? Patrol, as always? Just drop 2 assistant chief positions and a deputy chief then you’ll have more than enough money to cover the PR company. If not, don’t replace the $125K from their budget.

  • They have more chiefs (assistants and deputies) working on the 4th floor some days than they have beat officers working from Kaena Point to Nanakuli.

    Shows you where their priorities lie….making more slots for the senior ranks.

    • It is my understanding that a lot of beats go unfilled during each shift due to shortage of manpower. SA should investigate this practice. It is a safety factor for officers as well the general public.

      • This is state wide. Maui has same issue. Kauai is currently recruiting, Big Island steals from the other 3 counties. Son is MPD and he made more this year then I did as a sergeant with 12 years, as a sgt. He has only 2 and half years. Lots of OT. Lots of officers going to the mainland, better pay, better retirement packages, more affortable. HPD suffers same attrition rate, made worse when you recruit from mainland…. Punch clock for experience, then transfer home.

        • I feel sorry for the guys in D2, Sector 1. Not only do they have to cover a community of about 50,000 but also have H-2 and Kam. Hwy. to deal with. They try really hard and generally have a very positive attitude but some days, they are totally swamped. There really ought to be a Mililani Substation with adequate staffing so that the District could allocate more resources to Wahiawa and the huge Sector 3 area.

      • Also 4 guys sueing, cry babies. They were all on a special DUI detail on the windward side, worked 6 to 2 in the morning looking for DUIs only. They were mercenaries, Dawkins always in court bragging about his OT. Administration loved him because of numbers he was making. New chief came, wanted them to go back to patrol, all made all kinds of excuses. The reason chief wanted them back in patrol, rotating with other officers, safety, issue you speak about.

        • No wonder they sued, they had to go back to patrol. Isn’t that their job? But I’m sure there’s some seasoned officers hiding in the clerical civilian positions. Probably making triple pay of what the civilian makes & doing less.

    • True, for a while I only seen two officers in Ewa. They worked really hard and didn’t see any other officers around. I heard it was so that the higher ups in the district look good that they are meeting quotas with 1 or 2 guys when there should be 4-5. It’s definitely a safety issue for these officers who sometimes have no back up. The lieutenants and sergeants tend to have short-term memory once their not on the road anymore. Who the hell cares about the patrol officers….

  • Waste of money to teach officers how to “double talk”. What a bunch of crap. Bet captains and above will be the only guys going. What is really needed are classes on supervision, Sergeants need to he better supervisors. The need know how to supervise different generations in their work force.

    • Have to agree without you on that. Public like patrol officers just want the truth. PR company just going to teach you how to manipulate the listener into believing it is the truth. Honesty goes along with integrity one of their key department words. They spent $50,000.00 to come up with those words. You had to memorize the meaning before you went into your promotion interview.

  • More unnecessary spending by a dept. that is labeled with corruption. Do you think this PR firm will solve the problems by the dept.? NO!!!

  • The funds would be better spent on more patrol officers out in the Leeward area. Also root cause of poor public perception is poor management and a sense of no accountability. The cure is to develop and/or get better managers… not to increase expertise in explaining away scandals.

  • The idea more than likely came from PRP and Police Commission Chairman Teketa. Get ready for those slick PRP type Imua HPD commercials….

  • State Senator Espero hit it on the nose. It’s just like the Hawaii Visitor Bureau/Tourism Authority shelling out for a slick “Come To Hawaii” ad campaign while Hawaii’s crime rate, homeless population, soaring hotel room rates, etc. continue unabated. No amount of smiling models, fancy ads, funny commercials, thinly veiled double-speak can erase the real impact of the public’s first-hand personal (at times, fatal) encounters with police officers; (their demeanor towards us and how they did, or didn’t, assist us when they could/should have); the bad & good actual news about them; their truthfulness, integrity, concern for & service to the community as police officers – symbols & representatives of justice & the law. Expect that we residents will somehow have to foot part of the bill for this latest “gift”!

  • A Chief of Police and his numerous deputy/assistant chiefs are essentially the CEO and officers of an organization that serves the public. If they are incapable of being able to communicate with the people they serve, then they should resign. Failure to communicate is not an optional function of their jobs, it is essential. If the Police Commission does not understand this, they should also resign. The commission serves like a board of directors and their failure to understand the failings of the current Chief and his deputies is a basic breach of their fiduciary duties as commissioners.

    The Mayor is equally at fault for keeping any public pressure on the Police Commission for their failures on the job. The buck stops at the Mayor’s desk. Caldwell should not be re-elected for his many failures, loss of Zoo accreditation, the constant fiascos at HPD, the cost over runs on the rail project, and the rampantly growing homeless problem. It is simple as ABC, Anybody But Caldwell.

  • What? Hire a PR firm at public expense because the command staff can’t do their job? Why not replace the chief, who is ultimately responsible for this circus? Oh, wait…it’s Hawai’i…never mind.

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