Experience. Vision. Enthusiasm.

That’s what the three candidates for Honolulu city prosecutor want you to know they’ll bring to the job if elected Sept. 18.

But it’s what they say they intend to do after they’re elected that really counts.

And this trio has different ideas for the future of the prosecutor’s office.

Civil Beat, as part of its 10-point questionnaire to the candidates, asked: “What would you change about the way the prosecutor’s office operates today?”

Former Deputy Prosecutor Darwin Ching, former Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Franklin “Don” Pacarro, Jr. all say that they’re the best man to replace Peter Carlisle, who resigned in July to run for mayor.

Carlisle held the office for the past 14 years, and the winner Sept. 18 will serve the final two years of his term.

It appears that Pacarro and Kaneshiro have similar ideas about what they’d do to alter the office. Both say they’d create new departments within the office. Ching, on the other hand, wants to transform the office by using what’s known as community prosecution, a collaboration between law enforcement and the community to speed up response to crime, especially drugs.


“With crime rates up on Oahu and the continuing ice epidemic, we can no longer prosecute using the same failed approaches and techniques,” said Ching, who recently resigned as the director of the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

“Instead we must implement the latest prosecutorial approach called ‘community prosecutions.’ It is a proactive problem solving approach that is tough, effective and utilizes ‘best practices.'”

The prosecutor’s office already does use community prosecution, but not to the extent that Ching deems necessary.

In August, Ching told Civil Beat that, “the problem I’m seeing is that we need to focus the whole office in this approach rather than two out of a hundred something.”

Ching says that he learned about community prosecutions by studying the city of Portland, which he said used “community search warrants to close drug houses within months instead of years” and had an 85 percent success rate closing those drug houses when a warrant was sought.

Multnomah, Oregon, District Attorney Michael D. Schrunk, who created the community prosecution approach, said that warrants “have had a substantial impact on drug house operations.”

But, Schrunk also said that of the 80 prosecutors in his office, only 8 are assigned to community prosecution.

Meaning, that if Ching is elected and gears all of Honolulu’s prosecutors towards community prosecution, he’d be taking an approach largely used against drugs elsewhere and applying it across the board here.


Kaneshiro wants to create specialized units in the office.

“I would immediately change the following,” Kaneshiro said.

“1. Create specialized units in sex crimes, domestic violence, drug crimes, economic crimes, elder abuse and violent juvenile crimes;
2. Increase training programs in these specialized areas;
3. Allow investigators to conduct investigations instead of simply serving subpoenas.”

His approach represents a stark contrast to Ching’s. Instead of consolidating the office under the umbrella of community prosecution, Kaneshiro says that he will add departments.

Kaneshiro also says that if elected, he would add more rehabilitation possibilities for offenders than are currently available.

“The reason why non-violent offenders are incarcerated is because they are repeat offenders who are subject to mandatory sentencing laws,” Kaneshiro said. “However, what really determines the length of a prison term is the minimum time that must be served before a person can be released on parole. There should be lower minimums for inmates that no longer pose a threat to the community. I am very much in favor of increasing rehabilitation efforts.”


Pacarro, who worked under Carlisle the entire time he was prosecutor, also says that more specialized departments need to be added.

“I intend to put together a team of deputy prosecutors who specialize in sex assaults, devote more resources to identity theft and computer crimes, and encourage more deputies to make prosecution a career,” Pacarro said.

Pacarro also worries about how the office will react to advances in technology, saying that computer crimes will be a main forcus.

“Identity theft and computer crimes are growing,” Pacarro said. “With every innovation in technology, comes an opportunity for a criminal.”

One aspect of the current prosecutor’s office that Pacarro would continue is the use of information charging, which makes it possible for charges to be filed without a grand jury hearing or preliminary hearing where witnesses have to testify. Instead, a judge bases the decision on written statements. (Civil Beat talked about the effect information charging has had on Honolulu here.)

“Peter Carlise was an effective and efficient prosecutor,” Pacarro says. “The crowning achievement of his tenure was implementing ‘information charging,’ a cost and time saving process that allows crimes to be charged without further inconveniencing the victim but still maintaining and protecting the rights of the accused.”

Regardless of who is chosen for the job, there will be changes, either by reorganizing the office or by adding departments the candidates feel would better address the city’s problems.