If this was a popularity contest based on public input to the Honolulu Police Commission, Kurt Kendro would be the runaway favorite to be the next police chief.
But it was unclear how much weight the public support will have in the selection of a replacement for Louis Kealoha, who retired recently in the midst of a federal investigation.
A retired major who spent 30 years at the Honolulu Police Department, Kendro was supported by 59 out of the more than 80 people who wrote to the commission about the selection, as well as six out of the 13 people who testified at Wednesday’s meeting.
Susan Ballard, a current HPD major, was supported by two speakers, as well as four written recommendations. Thomas Aiu, a former special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Kevin Lima, a retired HPD assistant chief, were backed by one speaker apiece.
Aiu and Lima also received five and four written recommendations, respectively.
No public testimony was given in support of the other candidates. But Paul Putzulu, a former deputy HPD chief, received three written recommendations, while Mark Lomax, a retired Pennsylvania State Police major, and James Lowery, a deputy police chief in the Arlington, Texas, Police Department, had one each.
They were vetted by the Pennsylvania-based consulting firm EB Jacobs, which helped narrow the field of candidates from the initial list of 34.
Each of the seven finalists is set to meet with the commissioners behind close doors for interviews of up to two hours Oct. 23-25. The commissioners are expected to make the final selection shortly afterward — before the end of the month.
Commission Chairman Max Sword said the public input “gives an insight into the character of the applicant.”
Commissioner Steven Levinson told Civil Beat that he and his colleagues have yet to define the parameters for the selection process.
“That’s partly because we’re kind of creating the process as we go along,” he said.
Levinson said the results of background checks and psychological evaluations — which are being conducted now — will be given “a lot of weight.”
“The degree of public support will also be a factor, but how big a factor — I can’t say at this point,” Levinson said.
He said it was “interesting” to see the strong support for Kendro.
“There was such a preponderance of support for Kendro as compared to other applicants,” Levinson said. “I’m suspecting that he’s probably asked a lot of people that he knows to write in support — but there’s nothing wrong with doing that. My sense as of this moment is that he’s a really, really well-qualified candidate.”
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