Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell appears to have changed his tune on Police Chief Louis Kealoha, who’s currently under a federal investigation for alleged abuse of power.

The mayor appeared on Hawaii News Now earlier this week to discuss Kealoha’s troubles with the law, and said that the chief needs to speak out publicly to defend his name.

“The chief has told me he’s innocent,” Caldwell said during his regular segment on the station’s morning show. “I’ve told him you need to get a handle on this. You need to get out in front of this.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has avoided talking publicly about the FBI's investigation of Police Chief Louis Kealoha.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has avoided talking publicly about the FBI’s investigation of Police Chief Louis Kealoha until now. Screen shot

Kealoha is the subject of an FBI investigation that involves the circumstances surrounding his stolen mailbox.

The chief and his wife, Katherine Kealoha, a high-ranking city prosecutor, blamed her uncle, Gerard Puana, for the theft. But after allegations surfaced that the Kealohas framed Puana, the U.S. Attorney’s Office forwarded the case to the FBI.

Since then a special prosecutor out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego has been assigned to the case, and grand jury proceedings are underway.

Essentially, Caldwell called on Kealoha to be more transparent about the investigation and his involvement in the case.

The chief has been quiet on the matter, and has refused numerous interview requests on the subject.

“I’ve actually told the chief, perception becomes reality,” Caldwell told Hawaii News Now. “I’ve encouraged him from time to time to step out and say more. That’s about as much as I can do as mayor.”

HPD Chief Louis Kealoha looks on as members of the public testify at Police Commission meeting held at HPD headquarters conference room A. 17dec2014. photo Cory Lum
HPD Chief Louis Kealoha’s missing mailbox has caused him nothing but problems. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

That’s a big turnaround for Caldwell, who last year refused to comment on any of the allegations surrounding the chief.

When Civil Beat asked the mayor on several occasions to discuss Kealoha and the impending investigation, it was rebuffed.

The only thing Caldwell said was that the case was “in litigation and it’s a private matter so we can’t talk about it.”

University of Hawaii political science professor Colin Moore tried to put Caldwell’s recent comments into context.

He told Hawaii News Now that the mayor — who’s up for re-election in 2016 — might be trying to distance himself from the chief.

“(Caldwell’s) worried that the community doesn’t trust him,” Moore said. “I think maybe he sees this as a way to separate himself from the scandal early on.”

The mayor declined a Civil Beat request for an interview Thursday. Kealoha also declined to comment.

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