Bill would give mayors power to fire police chief

Local News

A bill introduced at the State Capitol Friday would give a mayor the right to fire the county’s police chief.

Sen. Will Espero (D-Ewa Beach, Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point) introduced the bill. He says it isn’t meant to slam anyone.

“Part of it is the mayor is the chief executive officer of the counties and the mayor works closely with the police chief on some matters,” he said.

Espero said if passed, the bill would give the mayor the authority to remove, suspend or place the chief of police on leave for good and just cause.

Right now, the police commission has the authority to hire and fire the chief, which would not change.

“The police commissions, if you read the charters, they’re not as strong as many of us want them to be and they’re not involved in the day-to-day operations,” Espero said.

If the bill is approved, it would apply to all of the chiefs across the state, including Honolulu’s chief of police Louis Kealoha.

The bill comes two weeks after some state senators, including Espero, asked the commission to add a co-chief to the department to help Kealoha amid personal legal troubles.

Espero also recalls a situation that happened in 2012 dealing with Kauai’s police chief.

Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho ordered Chief Darryl Perry to take a leave of absence. The Kauai Police Commission took the mayor to court and asked the judge to determine who had that authority. The court ruled in favor of the mayor.

Espero also said if lawmakers don’t want to give the power of firing the chief to the mayor, then they could consider amending the bill to give the city or county council that authority.

KHON2 contacted Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office and the Honolulu Police Department, but neither wanted to comment on the bill. A spokesperson for the Honolulu Police Commission was unavailable.

In an earlier story, Kealoha told KHON2 his job performance hasn’t been compromised.

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