City Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro was sworn in for his second term Monday, giving him four more years in office with new plans to tackle crime in Hawaii.
This comes amid public scrutiny of the prosecutor’s office and the Honolulu Police Dept. because of the federal grand jury’s looking into corruption involving Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha.
Kaneshiro acknowledged the scrutiny and discussed plans to build the trust back. What he did not discuss was Katherine Kealoha’s involvement in the HPD scandal, but did acknowledge changes that must be made to gain the public’s trust.
And he appointed Kealoha with a new role.
“We are not the bad guys,” Kaneshiro said. “We are the good guys.”
It was important for him to stress that there are two sides to every story and acknowledged the public’s perception of the HPD and the criminal justice system.
Kaneshiro cited “ethical rules” as a reason for why the prosecutor’s office has stayed silent in the past.
“Thus, the media will only present one view of the prosecution, the defense attorney’s view,” he said. “We need to assure misperception does not occur.”
Kaneshiro stressed the need to rebuild the public’s trust. “But because people are losing respect for law enforcement, we want to make sure info goes out .. . that the police organization is respectful and professional in how they do work.”
The prosecuting attorney also introduced new plans to fight crime in Hawaii. The first, an aggressive approach by targeting criminals who prey on tourists.
“With tourism being one of our top industries in the state, there is an urgent need to protect our tourists. They need to know Hawaii is a safe place.”
Called the “Tourism Prosecution Project,” the office will start what Kaneshiro calls an “intelligence-based prosecution strategy” based off what he called a successful strategy in New York City.
Deputy prosecutor Kealoha, also sworn in Monday for another term, will supervise the initiative, despite the fact that she is under scrutiny as part of a federal grand jury looking into allegations of corruption involving both her and her police chief husband.
“The federal grand jury has been asking for info that’s been in our office,” Kaneshiro said, information he refuses to disclose “’cause it’s our investigation.”
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is standing by the prosecutor’s office. “I think both police and the prosecuting attorney will continue to focus on the job in front of them. I don’t think they’re distracted by this. I do think it’s an issue that needs to be resolved, so that the general public can move on and focus on other issues.”