If the selection of a Honolulu police chief were a popularity contest, retired HPD Maj. Kurt Kendro would have won the job on Wednesday.
Seven people urged support of Kendro at Wednesday’s Honolulu Police Commission meeting. But the only two current HPD officers who appeared before the commission said they support Maj. Susan Ballard, their current boss. Retired Assistant Chief Kevin Lima and retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent Thomas Aiu each had one person voicing support for them.
Kendro was winning the email vote as well. As of just prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the Police Commission staff received nearly 80 emails pertaining to the chief’s selection. Of those, some 59 were in support of Kendro, while there was a smattering of support for Aiu, Ballard, Lima, retired Deputy Chief Paul Putzulu and retired Pennsylvania Police Department Maj. Mark Lomax. The seventh finalist is James Lowery, deputy chief with the Arlington Police Department in Texas.
The five members on the seven-seat commission (there are currently two vacancies) will interview the seven finalists behind closed doors Oct. 23-25. A decision could be made on Oct. 25, but no later than the end of the month, commission Chairman Max Sword said.
Those at the meeting supporting Kendro came primarily from community groups that he’s worked with over several decades.
Marjorie Morgan, a retired HPD civilian employee, said Kendro was a lieutenant and a member of HPD’s accreditation board when she first met him. “He’s very, very, very community-minded, and I have great respect for him because he’s very honest, he is very transparent and he does care for the community a lot,” she said, adding that he is driven, focused and a leader.
Nancy Bottelo, president and CEO of Special Olympics Hawaii, said she first met Kendro when he was a recruit in 1986. Kendro headed up the program’s law enforcement torch run in memory of his recruit class classmate Troy Barboza, who was shot and killed in the line of duty. Bottelo credited Kendro for that program’s success, and noted that he continues to coach a team of Special Olympians and remains on the Special Olympics Hawaii board of directors a year after leaving HPD.
Others voicing support for Kendro included Carol McNamee, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Antonio Williams, the chief of Law Enforcement Installation Management Command for U.S. Army Hawaii.
HPD Sgt. Barry Tong, of the department’s Central Receiving Division, described Ballard as “honest, very dedicated to the department and very loyal to the department.” All who have worked under her command at various HPD divisions respect Ballard and are loyal to her, Tong said. What’s more, “she knows where to take the department into the future to give the department more transparency, which I believe the general public is looking for in the Police Department right now,” he said.
HPD Officer Lisa-Marie Like, also of the Central Receiving Division, called Ballard “very kind-hearted, fair, and black and white,” adding, “She stands by her word.”
Howard Zusman told the commissioners that he supports Lima, his fellow Manoa Aikido Club member. Zusman noted that Lima, like him, is a teacher and that he voluntarily instructs youths at the club several days a week. “It’s difficult to be a good teacher,” he said. “I believe that if a person can teach children students … that ability lends itself quite well to properly handling other employment jobs they may have.”
Gary Dworshak testified in support of Aiu, his high school classmate. “In all of the years I’ve known Tom, he’s always (conducted himself) at the highest levels of character,” Dworshak said. “And I know he cares about the people of Hawaii.”
Gary Yabuta, executive director of the federal Hawaii High Intensity Drug Trafficking effort and former Maui Police Department chief, submitted testimony supporting Putzulu, calling him “the most honest person I have ever met.” While deputy chief, Putzulu stressed coordinating the efforts of all Hawaii law enforcement agencies, Yabuta said. That’s something Putzulu continued when he was director of the Hawaii State Fusion Center, part of a national effort to pool resources and information among law enforcement and military agencies.
Brenda Bernot, chief of police for the Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department in West Chester, Pa., submitted written testimony in support of Lomax. Bernot described Lomax as a consummate professional who is “intelligent, highly ethical, decisive, receptive to differing viewpoints, inclusive and sensitive.”
HPD Lt. Alexander Garcia, a 29-year veteran, did not endorse any of the finalists but urged the commission to pick the best leader. “We need somebody who’s going to stand before you and tell you the truth, whether it’s good or bad. If it’s bad, we correct it. If it’s good, we keep going.”
Written testimony will continue to be accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The commission’s office address is 1060 Richards St., Honolulu, HI 96813, on the first floor of Alii Place.