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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Mayor slow to resolve Kaua'i police chief flap

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — Mayor Bryan Baptiste has met with the parties involved but has not yet made a decision in the flap involving police commissioner Leon Gonsalves Sr.'s e-mailed criticism of new police chief K.C. Lum.

Baptiste said he will take as much time as needed to decide how to proceed.

"We're dealing with people's lives. We can't make hasty decisions," Baptiste said.

Gonsalves said he does not intend to step down from his police commission position. He said he can treat Lum fairly in performance reviews and other dealings between the police administration and the commission.

"I didn't have problems with him. We worked together," he said. "He's got his job to do, and I have mine."

Differences between Gonsalves and Lum became public when an e-mail from Gonsalves to a member of the county Prosecuting Attorney's office became public. Gonsalves admits the comments in the e-mail, but said the use of a nickname for the chief was not intended to be hurtful.

In it, Gonsalves referred to Lum as "Hop Sing," a character in the TV Western "Bonanza," and deputy chief Ron Venneman as "Little Joe," another character in the series. In another part of the e-mail, Gonsalves said he would throw up if he were to attend the officers' swearing in.

Gonsalves, a former police officer and retired investigator in the Prosecuting Attorney's office, said he favored another candidate for police chief. He was the only commissioner of the five-member panel to vote against Lum's appointment as chief.

Two commission members who have Chinese ancestry, said they were offended by Gonsalves' use of the name of what they consider to be a negative Chinese stereotype.

But some are saying too much is being made of the comments. Retired police officer Grant Yata said nicknames were common when he was on the force with Gonsalves and Lum, and no one was offended by them. He said he remembers "Hop Sing" having been one of the nicknames for Lum, "Angus" for Gonsalves, "Yates" for himself, and so on.

"We all lived with our nicknames and never thought anything of it. It was not taken or given in a manner meant to be discriminatory or derogatory," Yata said.

Baptiste held a series of meetings Monday with police commissioners and the chief. He said he could not estimate when he might decide how to respond, if he does anything.

Gonsalves said that the parties agreed to let Baptiste bring them back together for further meetings to determine how to proceed.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.