Chief Concerns

HONOLULU sits down with HPD’s new chief, Louis Kealoha, and takes a look at crime and law enforcement in the city today.


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Photo by: Mark Arbeit

Oahu got its 10th chief of police last November, when the Police Commission unanimously selected Louis Kealoha from a field of six candidates.

A 26-year veteran of the force, 13 of them on patrol, Kealoha has worked his way through the Honolulu Police Department’s divisions, including the Criminal Investigation Division, the Narcotics/Vice Division, and finally the Juvenile Services Division.

He’s also picked up a couple of degrees along the way: a master’s of science in criminal justice administration from Chaminade University and a doctorate in education from the University of Southern California.

We sat down with Kealoha in May, six months after he took the job, to find out more about what he’s learned so far and how he’s battling crime on Oahu. Appointed to a five-year term, one of his first tasks was to develop a five-year plan to improve the department, so we asked about that, too.

What have you discovered about the chief of police job that you didn’t know back in November?

A: One of the things I’m learning is that implementing change takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. That’s where relationships come in, building trust in the rank and file, the command staff, the politicians, everyone. It’s difficult to change the system.


HPD budget for fiscal year 2010.


Starting recruit pay, as of July 1, 2010.

When you took over, did you feel the need to take the department in a different direction than your predecessor, Boisse Correa?

A: When it comes to policy, departments change according to the external environment. We didn’t have to make any drastic changes, but I did want to create a positive climate, where people want to come to work.

What are the major challenges faced by the Honolulu Police Department?

A: Obviously the economy. Maintaining the public’s trust in the police. In July, our civilian employees are going to be furloughed. That’s going to be a challenge, because the officers aren’t going to be furloughed, so that causes a gap. The challenge is to bring the team together, so we can all move forward, in terms of morale. The plan is that, despite the furloughs, we’re still going to provide the same kinds of services we normally do.

When you look at the crime stats, what jumps out at you? What does HPD need to focus on?

A: Keeping our public safe. Nothing specific.

How do you prioritize between, for example, violent crime, property crime and highway safety?

A: It just depends on the situation. It’s hard to say, oh, we’re only going to focus our resources on violent crimes. For everything, whether it’s traffic violations, property crimes, violent crimes, there’s a sense of urgency that we have to react with. Not a sense of panic. They’re all important.

Hawaii ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to meth use. How would you characterize the department’s anti-ice efforts?

A: In addition to traditional enforcement, HPD is addressing the ice problem through prevention, such as Weed & Seed, the Police Activities League and community policing, and education, such as the DARE program. We are also supporting legislation that seeks stiffer penalties for meth-related offenses.

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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