Golden parachutes plague city, HPD’s fight to regain trust

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The City and County of Honolulu began the process of cleaning up the mess left behind by the Kealoha scandal when a 2016 charter amendment was passed to give the Honolulu Police Commission authority to suspend or dismiss the Honolulu chief of police.

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In 2017, former Honolulu Chief of Police Louis Kealoha was granted a $250,000 severance package and $150,000 per year pension.

That deal was brokered by former City Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, who was put on a $165,000 per year paid leave period after receiving a federal target letter.

Former prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro also received a target letter. He was placed on paid leave worth $170,000.

Legal expert Doug Chin says the sentences handed to Katherine and Louis Kealoha came with a clear message.

I think a lot of the reasons why Judge Seabright was very close to what the prosecutor’s recommendation was for Katherine Kealoha and exactly what the prosecutor recommended for the former police chief had a lot to do with making sure that the message was sent to the community that this was a very dark chapter for law enforcement in Honolulu that should never ever happen again.

Doug Chin, Legal Expert

To start a new chapter, police commission chair Shannon Alivado is now tasked with helping to restore faith in the department.

“I know the time will not necessarily make up for what went wrong,” Alivado said. “I think that what’s important is we never have anything happen like this and we put the safeguards in place.”

Those safeguards include:

  • The 2016 charter amendment giving the police commission more authority to fire or discipline the chief of police.
  • Detailed guidelines passed in May of 2019 that require the commission to follow rules in any suspension or firing of the police chief.

The attorney for the Puana family, who were victims of the Kealoha scandal, isn’t convinced, noting that HPD is currently dealing with an overtime scandal in its COVID-19 unit.

“The police department in the City and County of Honolulu has a very serious corruption problem.” Attorney Eric Seitz said. “My hope is the current administration and certainly the incoming administration will address these issues as a primary concern.”

Chair Alivado says that the police commission will meet with HPD Chief Susan Ballard about the overtime abuse on Wednesday.

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