The Honolulu Police Commission on Wednesday scrapped the idea of forming a citizens selection panel to help evaluate candidates seeking to become the city’s next police chief.
The decision was at least partially the result of fallout over commission Chairman Max Sword’s decision to nominate reality TV star Beth Chapman for a spot on the committee.
Chapman is married to Duane Chapman, otherwise known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, a Hawaii-based bail bondsman who used to have his own TV show.
On Wednesday, Sword acknowledged that Chapman’s nomination served as a distraction and during the public portion of the commission meeting said that the citizens panel selection process had “overshadowed” the objective of selecting a new police chief.
He also said that the ultimate decision should stay with the commissioners.
Honolulu Police Commission Meeting Wednesday, May 17, 2017
“I thought this would be a good tool to include an extra pair of eyes, so to speak, from individuals from outside the commission,” Sword said. “However, since making the announcement regarding the panel I and other commissioners have been inundated with positive and negative feedback from the public and endless suggestions on additional individuals who should be included on the panel.
“It is very obvious that no matter who we put on the citizens panel there will always be someone who feels left out.”
Sword said the reason he wanted to form a citizens advisory panel in the first place was because a similar process had been used in the past. The last time the commission selected a chief was in 2009 when it hired Louis Kealoha, who at the time was a captain with the Honolulu Police Department.
Kealoha retired earlier this year after he was named as the target in a U.S. Justice Department investigation into public corruption and abuse of power.
Shortly after Kealoha left the department Sword said he wanted the commissioners to form a committee made up of “regular people” to help analyze applicants.
Earlier this month, commissioners submitted the names of 13 people who they wanted to be considered for the selection panel. Those names were to be whittled down to five people who would then grade each of the 30 or so candidates who applied for the job.
When news broke that Chapman was one of the nominees it resulted in a fair share of ridicule on social media and other online forums, because of Chapman’s bombastic persona and her own run-ins with the law. Some were concerned that the commissioners also weren’t taking the process of hiring a new chief seriously.
There was also worry that other nominees from other commissioners were overly political or too detached from the communities that are being policed.
“No matter what outcome happens we’re always the targets, and that comes with the territory.” — Police Commissioner Cha Thompson
Among those nominated were former mayor Mufi Hannemann, former HPD Chief Lee Donohue and state Rep. Ryan Yamane.
Some observers criticized the commission for not having nominated people with direct ties to groups that have disproportionately high rates of contact with HPD, including Native Hawaiians, Micronesians and homeless.
But the commissioners said their nominees were good candidates who would have considered all views.
Several, including Commissioner Cha Thompson, a Native Hawaiian, noted just how difficult it would be to ensure all stakeholders had a voice on the panel. She also noted that it would be impossible to avoid scrutiny, especially from the media.
“No matter what outcome happens we’re always the targets, and that comes with the territory,” Thompson said. “We cannot please everybody and we’re weary. And those of us here on the committee can’t really fight back because it comes with the territory.”
Thompson added that even without a citizen panel, there should be some clearly defined mechanism for public input, a sentiment that was echoed by other commissioners.
Also Wednesday, the resignation of Marc Tilker was announced. He had once served as the chairman of the commission.
Tilker, a well-known Hawaii businessman, was not at Wednesday’s meeting. He was appointed to the commission in 2009 by Hannemann.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell reappointed Tilker to the commission in December 2013. His five-year term was set to expire at the end of 2018.
Commissioner Steve Levinson said he hoped Caldwell moves quickly to appoint a replacement so that commission business is not delayed.
Levinson, a former associate justice on the Hawaii Supreme Court, said that most commission decisions require a majority vote of the entire seven-member body to move forward.
He told Civil Beat that with Tilker gone, and Commissioner Luella Costales serving as a holdover after her term expired in December 2016, the commission could be in a precarious position if it is divided on a particular issue.
“The more shorthanded we are, the more likely it is that we’ll be hamstrung in terms of taking action,” Levinson said. “I hope that the mayor is relatively timely regarding filling vacancies, and I’m hoping that he’s not going to keep Luella dangling much longer.”
Caldwell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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