Fire police chief, Kaua'i mayor urges
By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau
By Jan TenBruggencate
LIHU'E, Kaua'i — Mayor Bryan Baptiste yesterday asked the Kaua'i Police Commission to remove embattled Police Chief K.C. Lum from office.
Baptiste, who informed the chief of his decision in a meeting yesterday morning, has scheduled a news conference today to explain his decision.
Lum said he will not leave voluntarily, and if the Kaua'i Police Commission wants to remove him, he will exercise his right to a contested case hearing. He said that immediately after returning from the meeting with Baptiste, he told his senior staff about the mayor's position and told them that he will continue to run the department as usual.
Commission member Michael Ching confirmed he had received the mayor's request, but no details. Other commissioners could not be reached yesterday. The next regular commission meeting is four weeks away, on Feb. 24.
Ching, who was on the commission when it appointed Lum, said he has not decided on Lum's tenure.
"I have to listen to the issues," he said.
Lum's 16-month term in office has been marred by high crime rates, record numbers of union grievances, financial overruns and political intervention. He argues that many of the department's problems are caused by disgruntled officers with political connections who have been trying to remove him since he took the job.
Both Lum's supporters and detractors agree that the Kaua'i Police Department is deeply fragmented and needs help, and some also agree that simply replacing the chief may not be enough to solve the problem.
Under the Kaua'i County charter, the police chief is appointed by the commission, which may also remove the chief. While the mayor nominates and the Kaua'i County Council confirms members of the commission, neither has the authority to remove a chief.
The State of Hawai'i Organization of Police Officers, in a news release issued Sunday afternoon, announced that it also seeks the chief's removal.
"It is SHOPO's belief and position that Chief Lum does not possess the qualifications, management skills, leadership and overall presence that commands respect and trust from his own administration and, more importantly, the front line officers," SHOPO president Tenari Ma'afala said in the release.
Ma'afala told The Advertiser that the union has been meeting with Lum for months to try to resolve their differences, and subsequently sought the mayor's intervention. The union also has filed ethics complaints against Lum and the former and current chairs of the Kaua'i Police Commission, Ching and Carol Furtado.
Kaua'i SHOPO officials met privately yesterday afternoon with Kaua'i County Council Chairman Kaipo Asing and Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Mel Rapozo, but neither SHOPO personnel nor the council members would discuss the subject of their conversations. Asing said the council has not received written communication from the mayor regarding Lum's removal.
Lum said the county's crime rates are improving from the levels where they stood when he was appointed in September 2004. He said the department's biggest problem is that disgruntled officers hastily go outside the department with complaints and that police commissioners and politicians react to the grievances rather than suggesting officers resolve them through the department first.
He said he believes the union has additional power in dealing with political issues this year.
"This is an election year, and SHOPO's endorsement is very highly regarded," Lum said.
Reach Jan TenBruggencate at firstname.lastname@example.org.