Police commissioners push off decision on embattled chief

Police commissioners push off decision on embattled chief
Published: Jan. 3, 2017 at 9:50 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2017 at 5:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Commission will reconvene Friday to discuss the future of Police Chief Louis Kealoha, who has been on paid leave since receiving a "target letter" from the FBI last month.

The target letter notified him that he is being investigated as part of a federal public corruption case.

At a commission meeting Wednesday, members spent more than two hours in executive session, and emerged without making a decision. It was the first time the commission had met since the chief went on leave last month.

The commission did say, however, that they had placed Kealoha on "indefinite leave."

HPD also released a statement following the meeting, saying that "Kealoha will remain on indefinite leave of absence and acting Chief Okimoto will continue to lead the department."

Attorney Michael Green, who represents a police detective with ties to the Kealoha case, said this is unlike any public corruption investigation he has seen before.

"This whole thing is going to stink and this is the beginning of the stench," Green said. "These are not good times. I think 2017 is going to start out in a very ugly way."

Green believes the seven-member police commission will be divided on what to do about the Kealoha.

Last summer, former federal prosecutor Loretta Sheehan was appointed to the group and pledged to hold HPD more accountable. The newest addition to the commission is former Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson. Both have publicly called for further investigations into the chief and the other targets of the federal investigation.

There is also a new commission chair, Max Sword. On Tuesday, Sword confirmed the commission will discuss Kealoha's position in executive session, but Sword would not disclose details.

In November, voters did approve giving the group more power to fire the chief without cause, but it's more likely commissioners will extend his paid leave indefinitely.

Multiple other HPD officers have also received target letters, and all have been reassigned to desk duty. Officer Bobby Nguyen and Major Gordon Shiraishi are in the technology unit. Danny Sellers has been sent to the criminal receiving desk. And Lieutenant Derek Hahn is on stress-related medical leave.

Former HPD officer Niall Silva has already pleaded guilty in connection with the case and will testify against the others.

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