Acting Police Chief Cary Okimoto announced Friday that he will retire at the end of the month, capping a 33-year career at the Honolulu Police Department.

While the Honolulu Police Commission hopes to hire a new chief by the end of the month, Okimoto’s departure means another interim chief will have to serve a short stint.

“It has been a privilege to have worked alongside the courageous officers and dedicated civilians who are the backbone of the department,” Okimoto told HPD officers and employees in a Friday letter. “Over the span of my career, I have witnessed the endless sacrifices that you have made to ensure our community’s safety and the deep commitment each of you have to serving the people of Hawaii.”

Okimoto took over the nation’s 20th-largest police department in December when then-Chief Louis Kealoha placed himself on paid leave and ultimately retired after being named as a target of a federal grand jury investigation.

Acting HPD Chief Cary Okimoto speaks to media about Chief Kealoha’s 30 day leave and ROPA. 20 dec 2016
Acting Chief Cary Okimoto, right, took over the Honolulu Police Department in December. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Police Commission is now going through a final round of testing and interviews of candidates to pick a permanent replacement for Kealoha.

Okimoto, who was appointed as one of Kealoha’s two deputy chiefs in 2015, applied for the permanent chief’s post but was not named as one of the nine finalists. Seven finalists remain in contention for the job.

Commission Chairman Max Sword told Civil Beat that Okimoto’s retirement will likely create a leadership vacuum for a few weeks before the new chief can take over.

Sword said another interim appointment will be made for that period.

“There’ll be a short gap there, but what usually happens is that the next senior officer in the police department will step up to fill the role of the police chief,” Sword said.

In his letter, Okimoto praised fellow HPD officers for “outstanding work” and reminded them that, “We are all about doing the right thing for the right reason.”

“I have strived to do this throughout my career, and I ask all of you to do the same. Aim for the highest level of professionalism and continue to work hard and make decisions that will benefit the entire community,” Okimoto said.

Here is Okimoto’s retirement letter:

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