HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell's two main challengers are calling for the police chief and his deputy prosecutor wife to step aside while a federal grand jury decides whether they should face criminal charges.
"I think it's shameful and I think it's a huge black eye for law enforcement in general," former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle told Hawaii News Now.
Carlisle and former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou agree that Chief Louis Kealoha should put himself on leave during the federal probe.
If either wins, they'll likely inherit the long-running controversy surrounding Kealoha and his wife, Katherine.
In a recent interview, Caldwell reiterated his position that the chief and his wife shouldn't be tried "in the court of public opinion."
"As a politician that would be easy for me to do, but I also think it would be disrespectful to the process," he said.
Djou, though, worries trust in the police is at stake.
"If he was just Sgt. Kealoha, I don't think it would be that big of a deal," he said. "But the fact is, he is Chief Kealoha and he is overseeing the entire Honolulu Police Department."
The Kealohas are under investigation for potential public corruption and civil rights violations stemming from a family financial dispute. Numerous police officers who work under the chief, including both of his top deputies, have been called to testify behind closed doors before a federal grand jury.
The Kealohas have also sued the city and ethics commission repeatedly, even saying racism is behind the investigations.
Caldwell says the city charter doesn't allow the mayor to put the chief on administrative leave, even amid a federal probe.
And, he adds, the police department seems to be running just fine.
"We all have to ask ourselves is what's going on? Has it impacted the management of our police force?"
There is one thing that Caldwell and his two top challengers can agree on: Politics and the police department don't mix.
But Djou and Carlisle say more pressure should be put on the police chief to temporarily step aside.
"If the operation of the police department has deteriorated to the level that it has today, then you would certainly hope that somebody would have the decency and the respect for the position and the respect for the department to depart," Carlisle said.
Kealoha and the department declined to comment for this story. The chief has said he will stay on the job unless he is indicted.
Mobile users: Click here to see a timeline of the police chief's tenure.