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.