Police commission seeks to narrow down finalists to head agency rocked by scandal

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu's next police chief will take on a department rocked by Friday's arrest of its former chief and charges against five current and former officers.

The arrests were fresh in everyone's mind as the Honolulu Police Commission started interviewing the seven finalists vying for the police chief job.

Two finalists were interviewed Monday: Paul Putzulu, retired officer and former interim chief, and Tommy Aiu, former DEA agent and now director of corporate security at Hawaiian Airlines.

"It was long. It was intense and that's all I can say," said Putzulu.

Aiu added, "This has been a very long and complex and arduous process, but we all find ourselves here today in the final stage."

After Friday's arrest of Kealoha and his deputy city prosecutor wife, restoring the department's integrity, regaining public trust and boosting officer morale will certainly be priorities for the new chief.

"Whoever the commission decides to choose to be the next leader will have to heal the department, lead them forth and show the public that 99.9 percent of everyone at HPD does their job in the most professional and profound way," said Aiu.

He added, "The misfortune and misguidance of a few does not speak for the whole department."

While Aiu addressed the scandal, Putzulu didn't want to publicly comment on it.

"I just love the department. I think it does a lot of good in the community. I think I can still help contribute to that," said Putzulu.

Before the interviews, four commission members talked about how they need to all agree to select the next chief.

That's because the body's chair, Max Sword, recused himself. He's related by marriage to Aiu; three other commission spots haven't been filled yet.

"The only question is, can we reach agreement on who our first choice is and I'm hopeful that we can," said Steven Levinson, police commissioner.

Added Commissioner Loretta Sheehan, "Juries do this every single day: 12 people reach unanimous decisions on guilt or innocence. I think the four of us can do this. I really do."

The police commission will interview the rest of the five candidates on Tuesday and Wednesday.

They are HPD Maj. Susan Ballard, retired Maj. Kurt Kendro, Assistant Chief Kevin Lima, Deputy Chief Jim Lowery of the Arlington, Texas police department and Mark Lomax, a retired Pennsylvania police officer.

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