Four Honolulu police commissioners have selected the City and County’s next chief of police: Maj. Susan Ballard.
She beat six other candidates for the position: Thomas Aiu, Kurt Kendro, Kevin Lima, Mark Lomax, James Lowery, and Paul Putzulu.
Commissioners Cha Thompson, Eddie Flores, Loretta Sheehan, and Steven Levinson blocked off three days to space out each finalist’s interview. Their vote was unanimous.
“All seven candidates were excellent, of good moral character and experienced. One of the things that stood out for me is that Susan was ready to do the job tomorrow. She had plans. She thought thoroughly how she would serve. She was articulate. And the commission had three days to discuss each candidate, and we were quite satisfied with her presentation,” said vice chair Thompson. “She convinced us that her deep desire was to be a healer and to help overcome the turmoil that the department is in at this time.”
Next, Ballard will have to undergo physical and psychological evaluations. If she passes, she will become the department’s first female chief of police.
Ballard said she learned the good news today: “I was actually at a birthday lunch with a friend, and it was very exciting. I had to keep it quiet. Nobody knew what it was about. I said, ‘Ah, it was just a work-related question.'”
As chief, Ballard will get a pay raise — around $190,408 a year for a five-year term.
“I was really kind of humbled this morning when I came to work,” Ballard said. “My email box was almost completely full with well-wishers, from not just the command staff, but the beat officers. It was very humbling the support that I got from every level of the department, from the bottom up.”
When pressed for a specific plan for the department, Ballard said she would like to present it to the department first.
But she said she was disappointed after several officers, along with former chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, were indicted last week on conspiracy charges.
“Where I was assigned, I’d always tell the officers, ‘Right now, don’t worry about what’s going on. Just do the best you can. We’re going to take care of our little corner of the world.’ Very disappointing is how I felt, and then when the indictments finally came out, it was even, if what is alleged is true, is even more disappointing and I guess my reaction is more anger than anything else that that type of thing could happen,” she said. “We’re going to put it behind us and we’re going to move forward and we’re going to move forward with integrity. We’re going to move forward with ethics, and we’re going to move forward with collaboration with the public, and also with the police department.”
Her message to officers: “Just keep coming. Do your job. We’re going to do the best that we can. I’m here to support you. I think most of the officers have worked with me and after 32 years here, I’ve been around since Moby Dick was a minnow as they say, so I think most of the officers worked with me at some point in time, and I think any of them that you talk to pretty much will tell you, I haven’t really changed since I was a footman, or foot officer. My personality has stayed the same, the way that I approach problems, the way I approach people, it’s pretty much the same. I haven’t changed, and I’m going to continue doing that, supporting the officers, supporting the department, and also supporting the community.”
“I’m thrilled. I was actually really nervous that we weren’t going to have a smooth transition, that we weren’t going to maybe even reach consensus. It was a daunting task to have a unanimous vote,” said Sheehan. “For myself, I’m thrilled because the department is getting a person to be in charge who is direct and authentic, incredibly honest and incredibly competent. Sue Ballard is exactly what this department needs, and that’s why the decision really, at the end of the day or this morning, as qualified as everyone was, it wasn’t really difficult at all.”
Honolulu Police Commission chairman Max Sword recused himself from the process due to his relationship with Aiu, who is his wife’s first cousin.
Thompson says the decision was a difficult one that each commissioner took very seriously.
“Quite frankly, and I’ve been on previous commissions, I think this was the most difficult. We were all new to one another. Everybody had their own idea how they would contribute the most and select the best candidate, so it was very difficult for us,” she said. “The fact that we arrived at the same candidate, we were very grateful when we finally talked again this morning, at great length by the way.”
When asked if she’s used to the media spotlight, Ballard laughed and replied, “I’ll never get used to you guys.”