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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Honolulu police chief popular with rank and file

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Judge Michael A. Town and Kealoha break into smiles after the new chief's swearing-in ceremony.

Photos by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Police chaplain Ronaldo Pascua congratulates Louis M. Kealoha after Kealoha was sworn in as Honolulu's 10th police chief at Honolulu Hale.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Louis M. Kealoha

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Several hundred police officers lined the third floor länai of Honolulu Hale yesterday, waiting for a chance to congratulate and give lei to newly sworn in Police Chief Louis M. Kealoha.

It was another sign that the Honolulu Police Commission's selection of Kealoha, who also received more than 100 letters of support from current and retired officers, is a popular choice with the rank and file.

Tenari Maafala, president of the State of Hawai'i Organization of Police Officers, said Kealoha's outgoing personality makes him popular with officers of different stripes.

"He's genuine, and he recognizes the human side," Maafala said. "That's just how he is. If you go down to the police station, he's 'Mr. Joe Aloha.' It matches his name. He's 'Joe Kealoha.' "

Kealoha, 49, was sworn in by Circuit Judge Michael Town in Mayor Mufi Hannemann's office. His wife, Katherine Puana Kealoha, and 10-year-old daughter, Kristina, were among the family members in attendance.

Following the swearing in, Kealoha thanked his family and friends. He gave no specifics on what he intends to do as HPD's 10th chief, even when asked by reporters afterward.

"As soon as I get everything set, then I'll make an official statement," he said.

Officers gathered outside said they expect great things from Kealoha.

The outpouring of support is significant. Outgoing Chief Boisse Correa resigned in August after the commission declined to give him a new contract. Earlier this year, SHOPO leaders said neither they nor a majority of police officers were happy with Correa's leadership.

Several officers said that unlike many other police officials, Kealoha has never forgotten what it's like to be an officer assigned to a beat.

Kealoha is "a firm believer of bringing the department together," said officer David Kauahi of the Juvenile Services Division, where Kealoha has been a captain since 2007. "What makes him a good guy is he's firm on his beliefs, and they're correct beliefs. He doesn't adhere to anything that's not right."

"He's going to help bring back the morale," said officer Wallace Salazar, also of the Juvenile Services Division. He said the public should not get the impression that Kealoha will be easy on officers. "If you mess up, he's going to be tough on you," Salazar said.

Sgt. Larry Santos Jr., an acting lieutenant in District 1, was in HPD's 85th recruit class with Kealoha in 1987. Kealoha's supportive nature will make officers want to work harder, he said.

"He'll remember where he came from," Santos said. "He's the same person now as he was then."

Beatrice Kealoha, the new chief's mother, said her son has wanted to help people since he was a child growing up in Kalihi, and later Halawa Valley Estates.

"I told him 'Helping people is a broad field,' " she said. "He has reached his goal now and is continuing to do so. I pray that God gives him the wisdom to continue to help people and help our community."

Kealoha was chosen from a field of six finalists.