Public invited to weigh in as commissioners review police chief finalists

The public is weighing in on the final phase of the search for Honolulu’s new police chief.

There are seven finalists for the position: Thomas Aiu, Susan Ballard, Kurt Kendro, Kevin Lima, Mark Lomax, James Lowery, and Paul Putzulu.

The police commission ultimately chooses the new chief, but chairman Max Sword says hearing and reading public testimony “gives an insight into the character of the applicant.”

Nearly a dozen people testified in front of the five police commissioners Wednesday.

Fifty-nine people turned in letters of recommendation for retired Maj. Kurt Kendro.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Director Carol McNamee described him as “dedicated, trustworthy, intelligent, calm, kind.”

A handful stood behind Maj. Susan Ballard.

“All of the people she has commanded has been very loyal to her. She has gained all the respect, she has gained my respect over the years,” said Sgt. Barry Tong.

Ballard was a finalist for chief in 2004, when Chief Lee Donohue retired. The lone female finalist and only current officer in the department said, “We’re going to do things the right way for the right reason. I saw this department go places we never want to go again. I want to work with the community to build trust as well as with the officers, and keep the community safe at the same time.”

As chief, Ballard wants to diversify the department.

“I think females, women have a huge part. We’re basically good communicators. We can diffuse situations that might be violent, whereas they don’t see us as a threat when we go there. I see a lot of room for women in the police department,” she said.

Some wrote letters of support for Paul Putzulu, Kevin Lima, Thomas Aiu, and Mark Lomax.

Arlington Texas Police Deputy Chief James Lowery says though some may call him an outsider, he’s actually a 1980 graduate of Radford High School before he moved to Texas.

Lowery says he’s ready to come back and wants to turn HPD into a premier department.

“We have to get back to building trust and legitimacy, policy oversight, technology, social media, crime reduction, officer wellness. I want others to come to Honolulu HPD and consider them the role model. ‘Hey, this is how Honolulu does it. This is how they were successful. I think we can replicate that,'” said Lowery.

The five commissioners will separately interview each finalist on Oct. 23, 24, and 25. Sword says the commissioners have blocked off two hours with each finalist.

Sword adds they will still be taking in letters from now until the last interview.

To send a letter, email policecommission@honolulu.gov.

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