Get The Community More Involved In Hiring The Next Honolulu Police Chief - Honolulu Civil Beat

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The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Chad Blair, Jessica Terrell, Julia Steele, Lee Cataluna, Kim Gamel and John Hill. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at

Honolulu has its unfortunate share of government agencies in need of restoration of trust and confidence.

At the top of that list is the Honolulu Police Department, which is looking for yet another top cop, its second in four years.

The last two chiefs left office under very challenging circumstances — Louis Kealoha in 2017 (he’s now in federal prison) and Susan Ballard in June (she bailed after a critical job review). Moreover, HPD as well as police departments throughout the country are coming under intense public scrutiny as examples of abuse of power and racism surface.

The Honolulu Police Commission has its work cut out for it in hiring a new chief, one who can lead a tight-knit local police force into the future with all the tools and strategies that innovative and accountable policing requires. The men and women of the department as well as the citizens of Honolulu deserve a thoughtful and meaningful hiring process that results in top-notch candidates.

Recently social justice and police reform advocates pitched a good idea to the commission — establish a community advisory committee to help the seven-member commission pick the right person for this very tough job. This committee would be in addition to the professional consultants that the commission is already seeking to help manage the nationwide search.

The issue of police reform has rarely been more pressing, both nationally and here at home. The public should have more of a stake in the hiring of the new chief and an advisory committee made up of a broad range of community members would serve that purpose, even if it’s just to help vet candidates and give input on how the right chief could help Honolulu move forward.

To be clear, the final pick would and should be the choice of the Police Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Honolulu City Council.

But it seems like it wouldn’t be too hard for the commission to draft a few volunteers — perhaps four or five? — for an advisory committee. Ideally, the committee members would bring different interests to the table than the commissioners themselves, who have a lot of expertise in legal and criminal justice issues. There’s already a former state attorney general, a former judge and a former corporation counsel on the commission.

A citizen advisory panel should include other points of view who aren’t the usual suspects but who need or have a deep interest in police services. A small business owner in Chinatown? A school principal from Waianae? A civic leader from the Micronesian or Native Hawaiian community? And yes, a social justice advocate and a former police officer.

Nick Schlapak Honolulu Chapter Chair of Shopo, holding a sign in support of the 3 HPD officers Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces in front of the court house for their fisrt hearing. Friday, June 25, 2021. Civil Beat photo Ronen Zilberman.
Nick Schlapak, the Honolulu chapter chair for SHOPO, was among those holding a sign in support of police officers at a rally outside the courthouse last week. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2021

Because of the intense focus on HPD these days the commission and its consultant will find no shortage of concerned citizens to volunteer for an advisory committee. A common complaint is that police departments are often too insular and do not listen to the people who they protect and serve.

To their credit, commissioners have expressed interest in exploring the idea, including looking at models in other communities.

But the clock is ticking. Now is the time for the commission to decide whether to pursue the idea of an advisory panel. The application deadline for the chief position closed Wednesday, while the deadline for hiring a consultant was Tuesday.

The city aims to select the consultant within a few weeks and Police Commission Chair Shannon Alivado expects the whole hiring process to take place over the next few months.

A citizen advisory committee would go a long way toward getting the public involved in this very important decision, and hopefully at least start to shore up some of the trust in HPD that has crumbled under the previous chiefs. Ideally, Honolulu will this time find a chief who will embrace and excel at one of the toughest jobs there is — leading and managing a major metropolitan police department while balancing a community’s concerns over police policies and practices.

Care to weigh in? The police commission’s next meeting is Wednesday, and the community advisory committee idea is on the agenda.

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About the Author

Civil Beat Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Chad Blair, Jessica Terrell, Julia Steele, Lee Cataluna, Kim Gamel and John Hill. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at

Latest Comments (0)

Please, not another committee.  Enough already.  Leave the PC alone so that they can do the work as articulated by the Charter of the City and County of Honolulu.  They already represent a wide spectrum of the community and this group of commissioners are more than capable of selecting the right candidate.

ddperry · 2 years ago

This editorial is calling for the equivalent of the "citizens selection committee" that was conjured up for the 2017 chief selection process but abandoned in haste when Beth Chapman was one of the nominees.  The CB Editorial Board derided it back then as a "silly idea" on October 11, 2017.  The repackaged citizen advisory is as well.  You can’t possibly fairly represent the community as a whole with a committee.  The suggestion that certain people have a greater interest than others is offensive and adds to the social fragmentation that is damaging this community.   The chief selection process is open. If people care enough to participate, their voices can be heard.

JimWright · 2 years ago

Really? Appoint a civilian commission to help advise a civilian commission?  Perhaps better yet, appoint a civilian commission to determine how we will appoint the civilian commission that will advise the civilian commission.It’s like my uncle Olaf used to say "Often, things are proposed just to show others that we propose things" .

TheAdvocate · 2 years ago

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