For HPD's Kealoha, a quiet ending to a tumultuous tenure

For HPD's Kealoha, a quiet ending to a tumultuous tenure
Updated: Feb. 28, 2017 at 7:06 PM HST
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Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha did not return to his office on Tuesday, his final day as the leader of the city's police force.

Not to clean out his things, and not to say goodbye to coworkers after a 33-year career at HPD.

Kealoha has been on paid leave since December, when the FBI informed him that he was a target in their investigation into public corruption. He now leaves the department in a time of turmoil, seven years after taking the helm.

Kealoha was sworn in on November 25, 2009. On paper, he was the ideal candidate: a native Hawaiian, well educated and well respected by the rank and file of the department.

He is credited with helping to secure world leaders at the 2011 APEC summit, and was also praised for being a solid leader after multiple officers were killed in the line of duty.

Kealoha will be remembered for bridging the gap between HPD brass and the union after a rocky relationship between both sides during the previous administration.

"He got off to a good start as the chief," says former Honolulu mayor Peter Carlisle. "I think that was extremely valuable and unfortunately, that has all completely unraveled."

By the end of his first term in 2014, Kealoha was dealing with several officer-involved incidents. Some had been accused of beatings, others of selling stolen cars, and -- the case that caused the most trouble -- a restaurant fight between a sergeant and his girlfriend.

That incident, which was caught on video, caused an uproar when the sergeant involved was driven home by responding officers and never arrested.

Female lawmakers publicly criticized Kealoha for not taking domestic violence issues seriously, especially when police officers were involved.

Meda Chesney-Lind, of the University of Hawaii's Women's Studies program, says his actions in that realm angered advocates.

"A kind of arrogance and a kind of disdain for the issues that the Women's Legislative Caucus was concerned about, which is violence against women," she said.

Kealoha's second term unraveled even more as a federal corruption case zeroed in on the Chief and his wife, Katherine Kealoha -- a deputy city prosecutor.

Multiple officers at all levels of the force were eventually called to testify before a federal grand jury.

After the federal target letter forced Kealoha to go on paid leave, a retirement agreement with a $250,000, taxpayer-funded payout followed.

"It does cloud all the great things and the great person that he is," says Tenari Maafala, President of SHOPO, the police union.

Maafala is a staunch supporter of Kealoha and calls him a close friend.

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