With vacancy at the top, high-level promotions at HPD raise eyebrows

With vacancy at the top, high-level promotions at HPD raise eyebrows
Updated: Jan. 30, 2017 at 6:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department has promoted two assistant chiefs, despite the vacancy at the top of the embattled agency.

There are only six assistant chiefs at HPD and they are hand-picked by a panel that includes the chief of police and his deputies.

With an acting chief in place after Police Chief Louis Kealoha's retirement amid a corruption scandal, critics say HPD should have delayed filling those two spots until a new chief is in place.

"Maybe promotions from the rank of captain on up, maybe that's something they should hold off on until the new chief is appointed," said Tenari Maafala, police union president. Maafala said the new chief should be allowed to choose their own command staff and the direction the department should go.

But HPD says the promotion process for the assistant chief started before Kealoha's retirement and that leaving holes in the command staff indefinitely could hurt administrative operations.

The new assistant chiefs are Clyde Ho, who took over as the head of the regional patrol districts, which includes everything outside of Honolulu and Waikiki.

The other assistant chief, Richard Robinson, is now in charge of the Investigative Bureau, which includes detectives working criminal investigations, traffic, and narcotics units.

The promotions took effect Sunday.

Meanwhile, outgoing Kealoha's last day is March 1.

He is being forced to retire, after receiving an FBI target letter in a public corruption investigation. The search for his replacement hasn't even started yet.

Assistant chiefs cannot be demoted by a new chief; the only recourse would be reassignment. But with only six assistant chief spots, there aren't many options.

State Sen. Will Espero, who is on the Public Safety Committee, calls the two promotions premature.

"With a new chief going to be selected hopefully in the very near future, that individual would have a say in his top chiefs," he said.

Former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle agreed.

"If you take away the ability of the person who's coming in, to select the people around them who they trust and who they have confidence with ... to allow this to occur then you're really hobbling a person who is coming in," he said.

The assistant chiefs are also not picked solely by the chief, but by a panel which includes the chief and deputy chiefs.

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