Search for new HPD chief narrowed to 7

HONOLULU (AP) – Seven finalists for the next chief of the Honolulu Police Department moved to the next round Thursday.

The beleaguered department needs a new chief to replace Louis Kealoha, who agreed to retire after receiving notice that he’s the target of a federal investigation. A federal grand jury is looking into allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption. Kealoha’s lawyers have denied any wrongdoing.

Finalists include Honolulu police Maj. Susan Ballard, a former Pennsylvania police major, a retired chief in Texas and Thomas Aiu, a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

The finalists were announced after the police commission agreed that the top seven semifinalists will advance to the next round, which includes background checks, psychological evaluations and interviews with commission members.

Nine semifinalists were chosen based on how they performed on a written exam. This week, the consultants hired to help select the new chief put the semifinalists through a series of assessments.

The semifinalists conducted simulated news conferences and mock meetings with neighborhood board members, said Joe Hinish, a senior consultant with Pennsylvania-based firm EB Jacobs.

They were scored on their “ability to know what to release and what not to release” and how well they put the neighborhood board members at ease, Hinish said.

Volunteer assessors, including Hawaii’s former U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni, helped evaluate the semifinalists, Hinish said.

Commission member Loretta Sheehan expressed hesitation about deciding on finalists before seeing semifinalists’ performance reports. Hinish cautioned that doing so would reveal the semifinalists’ identities. The commission didn’t want to know their identities in an effort to remain neutral.

The commission, which needs four members to agree in order to take any action, is down to five members after Luella Costales resigned this week over diversity concerns.

There were no women on the panel that scored written exams, and all four members are from law enforcement backgrounds, Costales said.

The remaining commission members didn’t want to further delay the selection process.

The commission aims to name a new chief by the end of October.