Police commission: Chief on leave indefinitely, decision expected Friday


Honolulu’s chief of police is on leave indefinitely.

Max Sword, chair of the Honolulu Police Commission, also said he expects a decision Friday on Louis Kealoha’s future with the Honolulu Police Department.

Kealoha is the target of a federal investigation connected to allegations of corruption involving his wife, deputy city prosecutor Katherine Kealoha.

For the first time since Kealoha placed himself on restricted duty, commissioners met behind closed doors to discuss the matter.

After more than two hours, the seven commissioners could not come to a decision. Sword said they needed more time and more information, though he would not elaborate.

“The reason why is we needed more information that will help us in our decision-making and we hope to make that decision at 11:30 on Friday,” Sword said. “Just to be clear, we are going to have an actual decision on Chief Kealoha’s role on Friday. I believe we are headed in that direction.”

Also Wednesday, commissioners grilled acting chief Cary Okimoto on the four officers who also received target letters. While they were never publicly named, we learned some held supervisor positions.

“It was one command-level officer and major who received a target letter,” said deputy chief Jerry Inouye. “He’s been relieved, not only of his assignment, but of his command as well. We moved them to another division where their work is not going to be anything that puts them in a position that allows them to handle evidence or any kind of information related to the case.”

HPD explained all four officers were reassigned to desk duties, and no one else received a letter. Okimoto admitted morale is low within the department, but says it is getting better and the department’s priority is working to build back the public’s trust.

“The federal case has been going on for a while. I just think that everyone is walking on pins and needles and not really sure as what’s going to happen,” said Okimoto. “It’s not an easy thing for all of us to go through and watch the chief go through and any of these officers. Whenever we see personnel getting into trouble, it’s not a good thing to see, but we have to deal with it. It’s part of what we do and there’s ramifications for anyone who is allegedly violating the standards of conduct or even laws.”

There were several people in attendance, like Sen. Will Espero, who urged the police commission to be more open with the public on its decision with Kealoha.

“This is an opportunity for you to help boost any perception one may have of the police commission and our hardworking police officers,” Espero said. “I’m certain the officers that are here today understand the need to make certain that our residents are informed, and I believe if we look at it from the perspective of as much transparency and openness as possible, I believe the public will be very supportive of your efforts and they will support whatever decision you make.”

“It’s about giving the public the ability to observe what you do and how you do your jobs, so that they have trust in the situation that has developed and is being handled in the right way,” said Brian Black, Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest.

They rallied to have the meeting public, but commission chair Max Sword said it could not be done due to personnel matters.

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