Commission stands by police chief amid allegations of misconduct


One day after the Federal Bureau of Investigation was asked to look into alleged misconduct at the Honolulu Police Department, the chief of police had some explaining to do.

Louis Kealoha appeared before the Honolulu Police Commission Wednesday to offer his explanation on what led to Tuesday’s dismissal of a federal criminal case against his wife’s uncle and a possible federal investigation.

Commission members unanimously appointed Kealoha to a new five-year term as chief back in February.

On Wednesday, the commission first heard from the public before it huddled behind closed doors with Kealoha for more than an hour.

There was testimony from retired police officers, including a former chief who pointed the finger at the media for triggering public mistrust of the police department.

“This ebbing of the public trust is really undeserved,” said Lee Donohue, who served 40 years in the department. “It’s really the social media and the media taking pot shots at the chief. I’ve been there. I know what he’s going through.”

Tenari Maafala, the head of the police union, also took aim at the media. “The things that’s been happening with the media lately with the negative publicity, that’s all skewed to sell papers to sell the news and avoiding the truth.”

For his part, the chief said very little, only to offer no comment on the allegations and extend his holiday greetings.

Ron Taketa, chairman, Honolulu Police Commission
Ron Taketa, chairman, Honolulu Police Commission

Ron Taketa, the commission’s chairman, said he would not want the commissioners to react with emotion and supposition. He said he would rather wait until an outside agency completed its own probe before the commission took any action.

“Everything is just a rumor now,” Taketa said. “The FBI or some other agency may be conducting an investigation, and those are higher authorities than the commission, so I would rather wait until after its conclusion before we reach any decision.”

Taketa also responded to allegations of misuse of police resources into the initial investigation of the theft of a mailbox at the Kealohas’ former Kahala home.

Last June, someone took the mailbox, which is a federal crime. The man charged, Gerard Puana, is Kealoha’s wife’s uncle.

On Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed the case against Puana at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the matter referred to the FBI to investigate the handling of the initial police investigation.

When asked about the allegation, Taketa said, “The chief did speak to us about that and has kept us up-to-date, but at this point, we have no evidence of misappropriation of investigative resources.”

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