The search for the next Honolulu Police Chief is anticipated to take at least six more months despite growing criticism of the lengthy process.

Representatives of PSI Services LLC, the consulting firm the city hired to help with the search, told the Honolulu Police Commission on Wednesday that they plan to spend the next six months identifying the top candidates for the position through a multi-phase process that will cut the field from 19 to either three or four finalists. At that point, the police commission will be tasked with selecting the department’s next chief.

Joe Hinish, principal consultant at PSI Services, told the commission that the process would resemble the 2017 police chief search that resulted in the hiring of Susan Ballard, although there will be a few additions, including the use of an online community survey to gauge what the public wants in the next police chief and an assessment of the candidates’ leadership abilities.

Hinish was one of the consultants who assisted in the last police chief search when he worked for assessment firm EB Jacobs, which was bought by PSI Services in 2017.

Honolulu Police Commission
The Honolulu Police Commission heard from consulting firm PSI Services LLC on Wednesday regarding the police chief search. Honolulu Police Commission/2022

According to the project timeline, the consultants will spend the next month planning for meetings with approximately 25 “community stakeholders,” a group that will include nonprofits, law enforcement groups and other interested parties. Those meetings are expected to be completed during the last week of January, Hinish said.

The consulting group expects to spend February and part of March developing materials for a written exam, using feedback from the stakeholder meetings and online survey. The written exam, which will focus on management and policing approaches, is expected to take place in March and whittle down the field to between eight and 10.

The remaining candidates will be invited to take part in an assessment center that will include written and oral exercises, cutting down the pool to three or four finalists. The assessment center is expected to take place in June.

PSI consultants will then compile dossiers on the finalists for the police commission that will include resumes, essay responses and scores from both testing phases.

The commission will interview the remaining candidates and select the next police chief.

Commissioners asked the consultants if there was any way to significantly shorten the process, which has already gone on for more than six months following former Police Chief Susan Ballard’s retirement in June.

“Is there anything that we can do to cut this time in half and do it in three months?” commissioner Jerry Gibson asked the panel of three PSI representatives. “Is there anything that we can help with that can make your job easier? We do obviously want to be thorough. I think, going through the plan, it’s very good, but it’s an awful long time.”

Janet Echemendia, vice president of safety solutions at PSI Services, said that it would be difficult to shorten the multiple-step approach, given the need to give candidates enough time between phases and the time needed to select people as “assessors” for the second phase.

“I think as far as accelerating, from six to three would be a challenge, but I think we’d have to think about that more deeply,” Echemendia said. “Can we move a little more quickly? Possibly.”

The updated timeline for the police search comes less than a week after Robert Cavaco, the newly elected president of Hawaii’s police union, publicly criticized the commission for how long the search has taken and the decision to bring in PSI Services to assist.

Members of the police commission also recently expressed their frustration at the amount of time the process has taken.

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