HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly half of Hawaii's likely voters want embattled Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha to step down.
That's according to the Hawaii News Now/Star-Advertiser Hawaii Hawaii poll.
Some 48 percent of likely voters said they had an "unfavorable" opinion of Kealoha, who's been the subject of a federal probe. That's up 18 percent since the beginning of last year.
The percentage of people who give him a "favorable" rating has also dropped -- to 28 percent, down seven percent from last year.
Altogether, 48 percent of those polled also say Kealoha should not remain chief.
"It looks like people who didn't feel like they knew enough about him to say or hadn't heard about him are learning about him and they are moving to an unfavorable position," said Becky Ward, of Ward Research, Inc., which conducted the poll.
Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, a deputy prosecutor, are under federal investigation. A grand jury began hearing testimony last year and will decide if the couple will face criminal charges stemming from a bitter financial dispute with family members.
Hawaii News Now has been outside the federal courthouse as multiple police officers and even Honolulu's prosecuting attorney have shown up to testify. Ward says the negative publicity is taking a toll on Kealoha's popularity.
Importantly, though, that trend is not trickling down to the rank and file.
"Although favorability and support for the chief has fallen off, support for the Honolulu Police Department is still there," Ward said.
Some 49 percent of respondents say they have "strong" or "very strong" confidence in HPD. Thirty-five percent have a 'neutral' position and only 15 percent say they have "little" or "very little confidence."
"I wouldn't want to do their job," said resident George Fleming, a poll respondent. "It's just a terribly difficult job as far as I'm concerned. We don't want everybody to look bad for the actions of a couple."
Alexis Fairly, another poll respondent, added that "they're the people you call when you need help."
"They're putting their lives on the line," Fairly said.
Kealoha issued a statement to Hawaii News Now on Monday afternoon thanking the public for its confidence in HPD and for the support the department has received following recent police shootings.