The state’s police union thinks one of the best ways to choose the next Honolulu police chief may be to force candidates to stay awake for 18 hours.

The suggestion, made on Wednesday during a sit-down between SHOPO and city-contracted consulting firm PSI Services, came amid a flurry of “community stakeholder” meetings held this week to set the stage for the chief selection process.

Robert Cavaco, the new president of the police union, told Civil Beat that he believes sleep deprivation may be key to determining how applicants handle pressure and the physical requirements of the job.

Robert Cavaco
Robert Cavaco, the new president of the state’s police union, said that SHOPO recommended simulating double-shifts for police chief applicants. SHOPO

“We told the consulting firm that what we’d recommend, or one thing, would be to have the candidates stay up for like 18 or 20 hours straight, make them mentally drained kind of like police officers working double shifts, and then bring them in at that point and run them through a practical exercise,” Cavaco said. “Whether it’s going in front of people answering questions or whether it’s a media interview about a big incident in the community, and then see how that candidate performs under that level of stress.”

Cavaco, who has voiced his frustration with both the duration of the search process and the decision to bring in a consultant, said that representatives from PSI Services seemed open to the concept.

“The consulting firm told us they never got that suggestion before and so they’re going to really take a look at that to see if they can implement that into the process. So we were kind of happy about that,” Cavaco said.

The following day, PSI Services met with the ACLU of Hawaii for its input into the selection process.

According to Josh Wisch, executive director of the ACLU of Hawaii, he and his colleagues stressed to the consultants their belief that all phases of the search, which will include individuals to help evaluate performance, should include equal representation by law enforcement and members of disenfranchised communities.

ACLU Presser Josh Wisch.
ACLU Executive Director Josh Wisch said that the ACLU of Hawaii met with PSI Services consultants Thursday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

Wisch said he and other members of the ACLU of Hawaii also urged the consultants to keep current political and cultural climates in mind when devising the written exam and exercises for candidates.

“We just wanted to make sure that they’re not just kind of asking the same questions that they’ve been asking for the past few decades, recognizing how much expectations of policing have changed and all the information that we know about policing right now,” Wisch said. “Including in Hawaii, the massive disparities in use of force based on race and disparities in arrests based on race.”

On Wednesday, Honolulu Police Commission Chair Shannon Alivado listed the groups that will be meeting with PSI Services, including law enforcement agencies like the FBI, the prosecuting attorney’s office, public defenders and the U.S. attorney’s office.

Alivado said that the commission has also reached out to nonprofit groups including the Domestic Violence Action Center and the Hawaii Health & Harm Reduction Center, as well as the state’s Homeless Initiative.

The commission chair added that they will be reaching out to recently retired and current HPD personnel and City Council members.

Alivado’s comments and the update from the police commission comes less than a week after retired HPD Lt. Alex Garcia sent a letter to PSI Services and the commission urging them to include more current and retired HPD officers in stakeholder meetings.

In his letter, Garcia said that he surveyed approximately 100 active and retired Honolulu police officers on what qualities they believe the next police chief should have.

According to the letter, the consensus was that the next chief should possess integrity in both professional and personal lives, transparency, compassion and leadership, and should be respectful of the community, subordinates and administrators.

Among the officers he spoke to, Garcia noted that just one person had a preference between a mainland and a local candidate, preferring a local resident who would better understand the culture and community.

“I think the key that we all agreed upon was we want the best qualified person, whoever can meet all those points that we’re showing and whatever else the community people are asking,” Garcia said. “And I think if you look at it, it’s pretty much the same thing that the community members are asking for.”

There are currently 19 candidates in the running — 12 from the state and nine from the mainland — and Garcia said that among the local candidates are six current HPD employees, five who have retired from HPD and one who works in local law enforcement but not at the police department.

“Knowing them over the years and what they’ve done within the department, I think there’s three, maybe four, that would be a good choice,” Garcia said. “There’s one guy I know that’s running that, if he made chief, I would tell people that I was a retired fireman.”

An Important Note

If you consider nonprofit, independent news to be an essential service that helps keep our community informed, please include Civil Beat among your year-end contributions.

And for those who can, consider supporting us with a monthly gift, which helps keep our content free for those who need it most.

This year, we are making it our goal to raise $225,000 in reader support by December 31, to support our news coverage statewide and throughout the Pacific. Are you ready to help us continue this work?

About the Author