I’ve got a sincere, well-meaning journalist’s message for new Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard:

You’ve got a serious disconnect issue with the community and the local news media, and it needs to be corrected right off the bat.

You don’t need one of those tens of thousands of dollars assessments by a public relations firm. Your own instincts and what I’m going to lay out here should point you in a corrective direction.

HPD has been badly damaged by the Kealoha stories, but much more so by incidents such as a male cop knocking around people on a raid, the cellphone video of a male cop slamming a man to the ground in Palolo Valley, the male cop who beat, pepper-sprayed and kicked a beachgoer he suspected of harassing a seal; the $1.1 million settlement for ex-cop Clarissa Barsa’s sexual harassment lawsuit; and those male-cop-involved domestic abuse cases.

Susan Ballard is HPD’s new chief. The author hopes she will take his advice to heart in order to improve the troubled agency.

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

All those males-only stories indicate that a culture of testosterone has been allowed to ripen within the department. Nobody at the top was tamping it down.

You cannot have effective community policing if the community sees incident after incident of male-police misconduct with little information on what kind of disciplinary action resulted.

‘It’s None Of Your Business’

And that brings me to my second point: HPD’s it’s-none-of-your-business approach to the news media, which reports to the community.

I’ve worked as a reporter with mainland police departments in Florida and Kentucky, and by phone with police departments all over the mainland where someone from Hawaii was either a crime victim or a criminal. They universally were open with me and provided all the info they had at the time.

A citizen photo of a police officer beating a man suspected of harassing a monk seal. Incidents such as this lessen public confidence in HPD.

Bob Jones

My experience — and that of most of my colleagues — with HPD has been the opposite.

I fail to understand why, except that an it’s-none-of-your-business culture has been allowed to grow without, again, someone at the top tamping it down.

I had thought years ago when HPD started hiring former reporters as their spokespeople (Wes Young and Michelle Yu) there would be improvement. Not. They became as non-communicative as the cops they spoke for.

I can’t say if that was by their choice — maybe being embedded infected them with the culture — or because police officials would not give them any information.

Whatever, those are some things to change if you want community trust. When you communicate with reporters you are communicating with the community. You’re building trust.

Sit down and talk to some in the news media. HPD’s release-of-information policy is a laugher. Most regular community people will tell you the same thing. The current policy is “sorry, that’s under investigation” — forever.

Please consider starting fresh with a new policy and new spokespeople with less embedded culture.

These changes won’t be easy, but I don’t think you signed up expecting easy.

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