High praise for Kubojiri


HILO — Four years into the job, Police Chief Harry Kubojiri continues to get rave reviews from the Hawaii County Police Commission.

The commission, in an annual evaluation signed Friday, praised the chief for professionalism, for getting the department accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, for setting a positive tone at the top and for enhanced communication with the public.

“The chief is an honorable and caring person capable of leading HPD for years to come,” concluded the four-page evaluation signed by both the past commission chairman, Kenneth Ono, and the current chairman, Leroy Victorine.

Kubojiri, who took over as chief in December 2008 after almost 30 years in the department, manages a department that has a $54 million annual budget and 722 civilian and sworn positions.

The commission in particular pointed to Kubojiri’s approach to the South Kona crime spree last year.

The department attended community meetings and helped calm a jittery public, ultimately succeeding in ending the spree and arresting suspects.

“Problems were readily admitted by HPD; this added to the community trust,” the evaluation said.

One area singled out for improvement is getting the department’s message of respect and aloha down to the rank and file. Suggestions included increasing “aloha training” among officers and teaching them to smile more often.

Commissioners also noted they find the chief to be “shy.”

The commission regularly sees a parade of complainants at its meetings, with people complaining about officers being arrogant and rude, using unnecessary force, yelling at people reporting crimes, profiling and harassing certain residents and throwing suspects in the mud.

“One commissioner noted that it appears at times the rank and file do not get the message from the top, especially about contact with the public,” the evaluation said. “There is still a need to treat the public better.”

But disciplinary actions against police officers by the police administration were significantly down in 2012, according to the annual report the department is required to file with the state Legislature.

Last year, there were just 25 reported infractions, resulting in suspensions of one to 10 days, and two criminal acts, resulting in one 15-day suspension and one termination, according to the report. In 2011, there were 43 infractions, including five listed offenses resulting in termination.

“I think evaluations are always a good thing, because it gives you an idea where you can improve,” Kubojiri said.