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Mayor Kirk Caldwell has nominated former TV executive Dick Grimm to serve on the Honolulu Police Commission to replace Eddie Flores, who is quitting at the end of the month before his full term is up at year’s end.
In a statement released Thursday, Caldwell said that if Grimm’s nomination is approved by the City Council, he will finish out Flores’ term before his own five-year stint begins in January.
The mayor, who’s been relatively silent about the many problems facing the Honolulu Police Department, thanked Flores for sticking with the commission and helping select new Police Chief Susan Ballard during what Caldwell described as a “tumultuous time for HPD.”
“I also want to thank Dick Grimm for agreeing to serve on the all-volunteer panel as I believe his decades of media experience will help usher in a new era of openness and dialogue between the commission, HPD leadership and the public,” Caldwell said.
In an interview with Civil Beat, Grimm agreed with Caldwell’s assessment that he’d help bring more transparency to the commission.
“You can see through me,” he joked.
But he also said that, if he’s confirmed for the position, he’ll want to spend some time gathering insight and information from community members about their perceptions of HPD.
Those perceptions are important, he said, because they reflect of the reality of the relationship the department has with the people it polices and protects.
“We have to know where we stand before we can take a step forward,” Grimm said.
Grimm is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where he boxed and played football. He served as a U.S. Marine in Japan and the Philippines.
He spent 35 years in TV news as a general manager, president and sales manager for KGMB, KITV and KHON. After retiring in 1998, he went on to work at the Hawaii Foodbank and retired from there in January.
Grimm has also served on a number of community boards, including the Board of Advisors to the President of Kamehameha Schools, the Chaminade University Board of Regents, the State of Hawaii Sports Task Force and Clean Hawaii.
He would be the sixth member of the seven-person Police Commission appointed by Caldwell.
Grimm’s nomination comes during a time of significant transition for both the commission and the department, which with nearly 2,000 sworn officers is the 20th largest in the country.
Former police chief Louis Kealoha was recently indicted along with his wife, Katherine, a city prosecutor, in connection with a federal investigation into public corruption and abuse of power. They face numerous charges related to conspiracy, bank fraud and obstruction of justice.
The charges stem from allegations that the Kealohas framed a family member for the theft of their mailbox along with the help of several officers who were part of an elite unit within HPD that performs surveillance and other covert operations to thwart organized crime and terrorism.
Four of those officers, Derek Hahn, Daniel Sellers, Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen and Gordon Shiraishi, have been named as co-defendants.
A fifth, Niall Silva, has already pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy.
When the FBI launched its investigation into the alleged frame job in December 2014, Caldwell described the incident as “a private matter.”
The lack of action, combined with numerous other instances of officer misconduct, took a toll on the commission’s credibility. Last year voters approved a charter amendment to give the agency more authority to perform investigations.
Two of Caldwell’s appointees have sought to change the culture of the commission.
Loretta Sheehan, a former assistant U.S. attorney, and Steven Levinson, a retired associate justice on the Hawaii Supreme Court, have taken a harder stance when it comes to oversight, and have pushed to bring more accountability to HPD.
Levinson has stood up to the city’s attorneys on numerous occasions when it comes to providing taxpayer-funded legal counsel to officers accused of misconduct.
He has said the commission has been applying the wrong legal standard for many years, possibly resulting in officers picking up their own legal tabs when state law requires the city to foot the bill.
Levinson and Sheehan have also criticized the commission’s long standing practice — again with approval of city attorneys — of holding discussions related to legal fees behind closed doors, possibly in violation of the public and media’s First Amendment rights.
Other commissioners appointed by Caldwell include Chairman Max Sword, Karen Chang and Jerry Gibson. Chang and Gibson attended their first meeting this week.
Commissioner Cha Thompson, the vice chair, was appointed by former mayor Peter Carlisle. Her five-year term expires Dec. 31.