HONOLULU — A member of the Honolulu Police Commission is resigning after raising concerns about a lack of diversity in the process of selecting the department’s next chief.
Luella Costales, appointed to the commission in 2012, submitted her resignation Monday. She told The Associated Press she’s resigning after complaining there’s not enough diversity among members of a panel who scored the written exam that was given to candidates vying for the job.
There were no women on the panel, and all four members are from law enforcement backgrounds, she said.
“The scoring panel lacks diversity in basic key areas, including gender, profession, residence, and cultural and ethnic background,” her resignation letter said. “As one who has spent decades advocating for diversity and equity in representation, and whose commission appointment was supported by community members who share in these values, I hope you can understand why I have chosen not to continue to be a part of the selection process.”
Costales’ letter noted that she has raised her concerns at recent commission meetings.
The commission hasn’t released the names of the semifinalists. A new chief is needed for the beleaguered department after Louis Kealoha agreed to retire amid a federal investigation. A federal grand jury is looking into allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption. Kealoha’s attorneys have denied any wrongdoing.
“I understand Luella’s concerns and agree that leadership should have provided more information regarding the consultant and the process he would use. But at this point we are well into the selection,” said Loretta Sheehan, a commission member. “We can audit the consultant’s work by reading the tests that were administered and the answers that were provided by all of the applicants.”
The consultant selected the panel members, Sheehan said.
Commission Chairman Max J. Sword said he’s disappointed Costales quit.
“I do stand firm in our decision to move ahead with the selection process, as we feel the contractor we hired, to which all the Commissioners agreed to let handle the process, has done a great job in adhering to the scope of work and timetable as per our contract,” Sword said.
Steven Levinson, another commission member, said the resignation comes as a surprise, even though Costales voiced concern about the demographics of the panel at a recent meeting. “I did not see a problem where she saw a problem,” he said.
The commission is made up of seven members appointed by the mayor and affirmed by the city council. The volunteer commission appoints and can remove the police chief and investigates allegations from the public about police misconduct.
Costales’ term expired in 2016. But Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell asked her to stay on, possibly beyond the selection of the new chief. “Given the issues before the commission at this time, it is helpful to have a full commission, as well as a commissioner with the experience and background knowledge you gained during your tenure,” Caldwell wrote in his request to her.
Costales is director of development for Kupu, a nonprofit that provides youths with training in conservation, sustainability and environmental education. Costales’ departure leaves the commission with five members. Commissioner Marc Tilker resigned in May.
“What it means is that collaboration is going to be required as we can’t select the new chief unless we get four votes in favor of someone,” Sheehan said.
Levinson said he hopes the mayor will appoint a replacement soon.
“The mayor thanked Ms. Costales for her years of volunteer service on the Police Commission,” said a statement from Caldwell’s spokesman, Jesse Broder Van Dyke. “A search for a new appointee to the commission is under way.”
This story has been corrected to attribute quote to Commission Chairman Max J. Sword.