Hawai‘i police urge commissioners to make new chief selection by Jan. 1
For nearly six months, the Hawai‘i County Police Commission has been searching to fill the top cop position after Chief Paul Ferreira announced his retirement in June.
With a handful of high-ranking retirements coming up within the Hawai‘i Police Department, including interim chief Kenneth Bugado, commissioners are feeling the urgency to fill the position by the end of the year.
“Our goal is to try and come up with the top candidates to present that we feel would be appropriate for this chief position,” Commission Chairperson John Bertsch said at Friday’s commission meeting in Kona. “The moment we do that we’re going to ask the applicants that we have selected to share their names and go public.”
To date, the candidates, now 21 remaining from an original pool of 44, have been known to the commission only by numbers to keep the process unbiased.
Andrew Burian, Assistant Chief of Administration with the Hawai’i Police Department, encouraged the commission “as much as possible” to try and make a selection for chief by Jan. 1 because the department will be losing several experienced officers. They include a captain, a lieutenant, a major and three sergeants.
“These are people who make important decisions day-to-day,” Burian said. “It’s important to have consistency and we need a chief to look toward for leadership.”
If a chief isn’t selected by the end of the year, Burian said the department will be fine.
“But we want to be more than fine,” he said.
The commissioners are still in the process of reviewing the questionnaires of the remaining 21 candidates.
Bertsch said he doesn’t know how long it will take to come up with the finalists who will be vetted publicly, but he added the commission will try to expedite the process.
“We really want to go through the information as best we can, identifying strengths and weaknesses (of the candidates),” Bertsch said.
Commissioner Anthony Sur urged the commission chairperson to push them to get through the selection process, saying: “We’ve had several months to get going on this and it’s like we’re in school trying to cram at the end. We’re way behind. We’re gonna have to have more meetings.”
Bertsch said: “My goal would be to have a selection by our next meeting. If we can do that, that would be fantastic.”
The commission continued to take public testimony for the chief selection. All testifiers expressed their desire for a chief who upheld the U.S. and Hawai‘i Constitutions and was a servant for the people.
“We simply want a police chief who is beholden to the people first,” Pastor Seaula Tupai said.
Testifier Brian Black, executive director of the Civil Beat Law Center, expressed his concern about the commission going into executive session to discuss the hiring of the police chief.
“I think the community would be interested in seeing how the commission is narrowing down the applicants,” Black said.
Bertsch agreed that transparency is paramount. He explained the county Human Resources department requested that the questionnaire not be made public because the same questionnaire would be used in future hirings. Although Bertsch noted that the questions are “pretty generic.”
“My goal has always been to navigate this in the most efficient, most effective and most transparent way,” Bertsch said.
Bertsch said the moment they get permission to go public with the names of the applicants, the commission will be 100% open and transparent with those candidates that have met the minimum requirements.
“We’ve got some fantastic candidates on paper and this commission looks forward to talking to them in person,” Bertsch said.
The commission’s next regular meeting is next month. The date has not yet been scheduled.