They promised to try to restore trust, reevaluate special assignments and tackle rising crime.

Following a nearly yearlong search, the four finalists competing to become Honolulu’s 12th police chief addressed the public for the first time Thursday night, each making the case for why he would be the best man to lead the department.

Scott Ebner, Mike Lambert, Joe Logan and Ben Moszkowicz fielded questions during a live televised forum on PBS Hawaii about a week after they were selected from a field of more than 20 applicants to be finalists for the position.

Honolulu Police Chief finalists
The four finalists in the running to be Honolulu’s next police chief appeared on PBS Hawaii on Thursday night. PBS Hawaii/2022

You can watch the interviews here.

The topics ranged from the Honolulu Police Department’s current staffing shortages and recruitment problems to the rising rate of crime on the island, with an emphasis on how the department is perceived by the public.

While each candidate had different ideas about how to approach the job, they all agreed that there are many things the department — which boasts nearly 2,000 officers and an over $300 million annual budget — could be doing differently.

Ebner, a retired lieutenant colonel with the New Jersey State Police and the lone mainland candidate, kicked off the event by touting his experience running a large department, which he said included more than 3,000 sworn officers.

“I think my experiences, I know will help me become a really good chief here,” said Ebner, who previously worked in numerous leadership roles with the New Jersey State Police including the department’s chief of staff and deputy superintendent of investigations.

Lambert, a 42-year-old major with the Honolulu Police Department who is currently serving as the head of the Training Division, then highlighted his local roots, his experience with the department and his age.

“I feel like I would be a great representative to the younger generation saying that you don’t have to be 50, 60 years old before you can hold high-level positions,” Lambert said. “I think that is very inspiring to individuals in Honolulu.”

Logan, a retired military general who served two decades with HPD until 2002, said he wanted to end his career where he started it and addressed the fallout following scandals involving previous HPD chiefs, including Louis Kealoha who is serving a seven-year sentence in federal prison on corruption charges.

Scott Ebner and Ben Moszkowicz
Scott Ebner, left, highlighted his position as an outside candidate while Ben Moszkowicz touted his education and experience with HPD. PBS Hawaii/2022

“There is some chaos that happened with previous chiefs that have created some things with the department that the department needs to heal from,” Logan said. “So that’s the immediate nature of my business, to fix that healing and get the department’s trust back with the community as soon as possible.”

Moszkowicz, a police major who has worked in every bureau within the department during his 21-year career, pointed to his education and current enrollment at the FBI National Academy, a 10-week executive leadership training program in Quantico, Virginia. He has been commuting between the states since the program began in April.

“That’s given me a tremendous insight into viewpoints from law enforcement around the world,” Moszkowicz said.

When faced with an opening question regarding the rising crime rates on Oahu, all four candidates cited the need to bolster recruitment efforts to increase patrol staffing for the department, which currently has approximately 300 officer vacancies.

Ebner said he would conduct a “campaign blitz” to recruit new officers if he is chosen, while Lambert said the difficulty recruiting new officers is connected to recent scrutiny the department has faced.

“Who wants to work for an agency that is perceived to be corrupt?” Lambert asked. “Who wants to work for an agency with rampant nepotism? Who wants to work for an agency that you won’t get in trouble as long as you’re friends with somebody? Nobody.”

The need to place officers working special details into patrol positions was high on the agenda during the discussions.

“When we talk about vacancies the problem is actually much worse than the public’s been led onto because of this gigantic entangled mess of special assignments,” Moszkowicz said, adding that he would reevaluate special assignments within his first 30 days of taking office if he is chosen for the job.

Each candidate expressed what they believed to be issues plaguing HPD’s recruiting efforts and what programs they would implement to fix them.

Ideas included programs to recruit and train young people either still in high school or immediately after they graduate.

“The 18- to 20-year-olds that you want in the police department, you’re competing against the military,” Logan said. “You’re competing against college. You’re competing against other venues.”

Joe Logan and Mike Lambert
Both Joe Logan, left, and Mike Lambert said they would improve support for officers if they are chosen to lead the department. PBS Hawaii/2022

Logan also suggested reappraising the requirements to join the police department.

One topic that repeatedly resurfaced throughout the event was the public’s perception of the HPD — a topic that quickly emerged as a sticking point for Lambert.

Lambert said turnover in HPD leadership has led to inconsistent disciplinary actions, which he said has allowed the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers to overturn disciplinary actions through arbitration at a high rate.

“What people don’t know is the reason why we lose arbitration so much is that the union is able to point back to an earlier period of time where the punishment was less for something similar,” Lambert said. He added that he would institute a consistent “disciplinary matrix” similar to that used by the New York City Police Department to keep disciplinary actions consistent.

The Honolulu Police Commission began the search for the city’s new police chief after Susan Ballard retired from the position on June 1 amid criticism over her performance.

Moszkowicz would not say whether he believed there was corruption within HPD but acknowledged that the public may hold that opinion and said that the department could build trust with the community by enforcing body camera policies.

Ebner highlighted his position as the only outsider in the running to be Honolulu’s next police chief. He said he would make some immediate physical changes to distance the department from its checkered past on his first day, after he saw a picture of Kealoha hanging in the department during a tour in March.

“Immediately, the day I take over he would be taken down,” Ebner said, referring to Kealoha. “He lost that right to be considered a police chief of the Honolulu Police Department. That’s how I feel about transparency.”

All finalists strongly agreed that the department could be doing more to support its employees.

Lambert proposed a policy allowing officers paid time to exercise each week while Logan likened the job of being a police officer to being in the military, which he said can take a toll on mental health.

“We, as the leadership of the department, as the chief, I’m going to make it a point to visit those who need help,” Logan said.

The conversation included the department’s interactions with homeless people, the use of body cameras and officer retention.

The televised event came hours after the Honolulu Police Commission met and announced the next steps in the search.

All four finalists are expected to appear before the Honolulu Police Commission on Monday morning. Commission chair Shannon Alivado said the commissioners will pair up in groups of two and meet with the candidates individually on Saturday ahead of Monday’s meeting.

The commission also took testimony from the public which included written testimony from at least 50 people voicing their support for specific candidates.

Civil Beat reviewed the compilation of written public testimony, the largest portion of which was in support of Moszkowicz, followed by Logan, Lambert and Ebner respectively.

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