Maj. Susan Ballard became Honolulu’s first female police chief today, taking over a department mired in a scandal that deposed her predecessor and cast a cloud over the entire force.
The city’s Police Commission announced the selection of the veteran officer as HPD’s 11th chief at their afternoon meeting at police headquarters with Ballard and other department leadership in attendance.
Ballard replaces Louis Kealoha, who retired amid the scandal at the end of February and was indicted on federal corruption charges on Friday. Kealoha first left the main HPD station on Dec. 20, when he placed himself on paid administrative leave after being served a letter from federal authorities informing him he is a target of a criminal investigation. Acting Chief Cary Okimoto has been leading the department since December, and plans to retire after the transition to the new chief.
Acting Mayor Roy K. Amemiya, Jr. congratulated Ballard in a statement today, but noted, “Chief Susan Ballard has a major challenge in restoring public trust in the leadership of the Honolulu Police Department. Mayor (Kirk) Caldwell and his administration look forward to sitting down with Chief Ballard very soon to discuss the long-term vision for HPD and a way forward in restoring the highest degree of confidence in our police department.” Caldwell is traveling out of state this week.
City Council Chairman Ron Menor also congratulated Ballard, adding, “This historic appointment of a veteran officer with 32 years of experience will begin a new era of HPD leadership at a time when our city faces an array of public safety issues that require aggressive enforcement driven by collaboration with the community. We look forward to working with Chief Ballard and her team to help keep Honolulu one of the safest big cities in America while improving management, transparency and accountability within the department.”
Ballard beat out six other finalists: retired Drug Enforcement Agency Agent Thomas Aiu, retired HPD Maj. Kurt Kendro, retired HPD Assistant Chief Kevin Lima, retired Pennsylvania State Police Maj. Mark Lomax, current Arlington (Texas) Police Department Deputy Chief Jim Lowery and retired HPD Deputy Chief Paul Putzulu. She was the only finalist now wearing an HPD badge.
Ballard, 60, was born in Norfolk, Va., and raised in North Carolina. Most recently assigned to HPD’s Central Receiving Division, she began her career with HPD in 1985. A major since 2001, Ballard has also headed the Windward and Kalihi district patrol divisions, as well as the training and finance divisions.
She was also among four finalists when Boisse Correa became chief in 2004.
Earlier this month, Ballard said she has been outspoken “regarding the problems and concerns regarding ethical decisions that were made for the last seven years,” the span of Kealoha’s term.
“There is a lack of trust of the leaders of the department both internally and externally,” she said. Training of officers needs to change “to move away from the warrior mentality and more to the guardian mentality.” Community trust begins with community policing, she said.
“HPD also needs to do a better job investigating cases where officers are involved,” Ballard said. “Too many officers that are fired for just reasons are returned to work and some officers that are fired should not have been.”
On Friday, Kealoha, and his deputy city prosecutor wife, Katherine Kealoha, were arrested on charges that included bank fraud, conspiracy and obstruction stemming from a family fight between Katherine and her uncle. They were released that day on $100,ooo bonds each. The former chief received a $250,000 severance package from the commission, but he must return the money if he is convicted of a felony within six years, according to the terms of the deal.