comscore Instability, distrust still mire Police Department | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Instability, distrust still mire Police Department

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    Chief Louis Kealoha answers questions at hearing.

It rankled when former police Chief Louis Kea­loha, facing a federal corruption investigation for allegedly involving the department in a family legal dispute, was paid $250,000 by the Police Commission to go away.

It stings even worse to see that while the taxpayer money went away, Kealoha really didn’t.

He left legal waters muddied with an ethics complaint against a police commissioner, a lawsuit against Ethics Commission employees and cries of civil rights violations.

Now his lawyer is throwing around absurd allegations as the former chief demands that the city pay his legal fees in the family feud that led to his ouster.

It’s unbelievable that police commissioners and city attorneys agreed to give him $250,000 without getting a global settlement of all of Kealoha’s claims against the city.

A majority of commissioners and Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the retirement deal was necessary to restore stability in the department and avoid protracted legal fights.

That was in January. Eight months later, we still don’t have the stability of a new police chief or an end to the haggling with Kealoha and his attorneys.

Last week, Kealoha attorney Kevin Sumida demanded that Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan — the only vote against Kealoha’s payout — recuse herself from voting on his legal fees, claiming she’s biased against him.

The absurdity came when Sumida accused Sheehan of violating the law by talking to police officers, reading the newspaper and attending a court hearing to inform herself about police issues.

Commissioners twisted themselves into knots for 40 minutes before dismissing the complaint.

They’ve also entangled themselves in a drawn-out process to select Kealoha’s replacement that‘s made little sense.

Picking a chief is the commission’s main job, but members have largely stayed in the background.

After botching the appointment of a local citizen advisory panel, commissioners handed off screening of 34 applicants to a mainland consultant who relied on an all-male panel of four former police chiefs, three of whom were from Pennsylvania.

The initial screening got the list down to nine; after another round of screening, the commission will pick four finalists whose names will be made public before a new chief is named.

Commissioners say even they don’t know the identities of the applicants at this point.

It’s difficult to see how a secretive and convoluted process with so little diversity and community involvement will help restore confidence in a department that has been battered by Kealoha’s troubles and other disciplinary issues on the force.

How can commissioners possibly know they found the right chief when they didn’t know who all the candidates were and didn’t participate in key evaluations?

Causing unnecessary suspicions about the selection process only increases the challenges the new chief will face in rallying the department’s core of fine officers and renewing public trust.

Reach David Shapiro at

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