Police chief’s retirement draws mixed reaction

Lee Donohue, former police chief

Some say Chief Louis Kealoha was unfairly treated, while others say he should have stepped down from the job more than a year ago.

Those who support the chief say he should have stayed on the job until the federal investigation comes to a resolution. Others say he cannot effectively lead the department with such a dark cloud looming.

Former chief Lee Donohue led the Honolulu Police Department from 1998 to 2004. He says he’s not surprised that Chief Kealoha retired.

But Donohue says pressure from politicians forced the police commission to put Kealoha on the hot seat and eventually retire.

“Nowhere is there anything that says he did anything wrong, and we’re drumming this guy right out of office, so I just don’t think it was fair, handled fairly,” said Donohue.

He adds that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and the chief should be held under the same standard.

“Say you’re the chairman of the commission. What would you have done?” KHON2 asked.

“What I would have probably offered was that he remain on leave with pay until this is resolved,” Donohue said.

But others have been calling on the chief to leave his position shortly after the federal investigation over a year ago.

“This was wearing down on the department and the existing officers, and the morale was bad in terms of what is actually going on with the police department,” said state Sen. Will Espero.

Espero says Kealoha’s decision is beneficial to the department, the whole community, and to the police chief himself.

“All of his efforts and his energy can be toward his defense, if that’s where this is leading to, and he doesn’t have to worry about the department and the officers and the City and County,” Espero said.

“I hate to see him leave, from a selfish perspective,” said SHOPO President Tenari Maafala. “I admire him as the chief of police and especially as a friend in blue if you will, or a brother in that case.”

The president of the police officers’ union adds that a majority of the officers support the chief and would have wanted him to stay on and let the federal investigation play itself out.

“There’s the side that I believe is the majority that supports Chief Kealoha,” Maafala said. “They want his full and entire due process to be vetted through and then there those rightfully so good bad or otherwise everyone has a right to their opinion.”

One thing they all agree on is that the chief’s retirement will allow the police department to move forward.

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