Exclusive: Hawaii sheriff talks about his ouster, accomplishments

State Sheriff John Lum
State Sheriff John Lum

By Minna Sugimoto bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The man who has served as Hawaii's sheriff for the past four years bid farewell to his deputies and other staff members Thursday.

Two weeks after getting his walking papers, he says it's still not clear why he's being ousted.

State Sheriff John Lum is proud of his four-year tenure, saying the average term for the post is 18 months. While he obviously has his share of opponents, some of his supporters say he's the best sheriff the division has ever had.

With lei, hugs and plenty of food, sheriff's deputies and others say aloha to outgoing leader John Lum. They also present the 62-year-old with a plaque that includes a photo of his team.

"It's very heart-warming," Lum said. "But at the same time, sad to see it, I hope it doesn't stop. I hope they continue to move forward."

Since 2005, Lum has led a division that carries out services statewide. Deputies conduct criminal investigations, serve arrest warrants, provide security at courthouses, and perform other duties.

"I wanted to change the mindset that they are law enforcement. They provide a law enforcement response and presence," Lum said. "They're not just security."

He says he never had the funding to make huge changes, but he worked within the system to move his division forward.

"Of course, there's always resistance," he said. "That's the internal culture of any organization."

He says he worked to strengthen policies and training, and that his removal is still difficult to understand.

"It hasn't been explained to me fully," he said. "All I know is that it was a different direction that they're moving into."

Lum took over as state sheriff after 33 years with the Honolulu Police Department.

"I want to thank the sheriffs," he said. "They've been very good, good, highly-motivated, professional law enforcement people."

The Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Sheriff Division, says Lt. Robin Nagamine will serve as acting sheriff starting Friday.