Police Chief Francis Keala remembered as pioneer who ushered in new era at HPD

Police Chief Francis Keala remembered as pioneer who ushered in new era at HPD

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu's finest bid aloha to former Honolulu Police Chief Francis Keala on Thursday, remembering him as a leader who helped usher in a new era for the Honolulu Police Department.

Keala died Jan. 7 at the age of 86, and was laid to rest at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl following a somber motorcade procession past HPD headquarters.

By his friends and colleagues, Keala was remembered for a series of firsts.

He was the first police chief with a college education. And during his 14-year tenure as Honolulu's top cop, officers unionized and HPD welcomed its first female officers.

"He's going to be an icon because he a lot of things worked for him." said former Police Chief Lee Donahue.

Keala grew up in Honolulu and attended Saint Louis High School. He was a paratrooper in the Army and a major in the Army Reserve.

Retired HPD officer Robert "Bobby" Schmidt said he will always be thankful for Keala.

Schmidt said Keala recommended him to attend FBI training in Quantico, Virginia. "He's a real good police officer with his military background and whatnot. He was a really good chief," Schmidt said.

Keala served as police chief from 1969 to 1983. While in the position, he confirmed that organized crime existed in Hawaii and launched a drug eradication program known as "Operation Green Harvest."

But as the department evolved, Keala faced challenges.

Officers unionized and the face of HPD changed.

"He had his problems, too ... he had women coming into policing, which he was not in favor of," Donahue said.

City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who served on the police commission when Keala was selected chief, said when it came to women, Keala was more concerned about their safety than their gender.

"Because some of them were small and he worried, not because they were women, but could they defend themselves?"

Former officer Alice Ome was among the first females to join the ranks at HPD. She said Keala was fair but tough.

"So when they came in with women, and they changed the height requirements and everybody was against it, he said let them try. Let them prove themselves. He was a fair man. And when the unions came in, he treated them fairly as well," Ome said.

Keala was also known for changing the department's role from enforcer to protector. He was known as an officer's chief.

"My dad had a lot of respect for police officers, but he recognized how difficult it was. It was a really difficult job," said Keala's son, Mark.

Gov. David Ige knew Keala well when they both worked together in the private sector.

"His integrity and respect for all people were outstanding examples even when you look at what's happening in the world today. Honolulu lost a truly great public servant and I think he will be missed," Ige said.

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