Honolulu police chief needs to heal schism with ranks
A survey of Honolulu police officers is highly critical of Chief Boisse Correa's leadership.
HONOLULU Police Chief Boisse Correa gets high marks from the Honolulu Police Commission
, but not by the rank and file of the city's finest. A survey of police officers by their union
shows that their relationship with the chief needs fixing. Correa would be mistaken to dismiss the survey as union carping.
The Police Commission praised Correa last week as "exceeding expectations and exemplary" since becoming police chief in August 2004. The commission rated his performance in the areas of "leadership qualities, managerial skills and communication with the Police Commission."
That is not the view of Correa from the perspective of those who work beneath him, according to a survey taken last month by the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the officers' union. In lopsided numbers, they responded that Correa fails to support, inspire, communicate with or deal fairly with them, and 78.3 percent wish they had a different chief.
The responses paint a picture of a chief who is unapproachable by underlings. In most of 15 categories, more than two-thirds of officers give him low ratings, while the percentage of those who gave him acceptable ratings were in single digits. His most positive area was in delegating authority; more than half the officers said he is comfortable in doing so.
William Puette, director of the Center for Labor Education & Research at the University of Hawaii's West Oahu campus, concluded that the perception that Correa "lacks appropriate leadership skills is widespread and demoralizing." Officers' comments "were overwhelmingly negative," he wrote, accusing Correa of "micromanaging the department" and "drawing resources away from ordinary police duties to build up a homeland security unit for political reasons."
About 57 percent of Honolulu's 1,877 officers responded to the survey. Puette described that response as high and reflective of the police force in terms of gender and seniority, establishing the survey's "sound" validity.
Correa questioned that validity, asserting in a written statement that he "would expect to see a high number of officers leaving, an increase in complaints and other changes." More than three-quarters of the respondents indicated they think about leaving the department at least some of the time.
He added that police chiefs frequently make decisions that are unpopular and said he "will never compromise my integrity or the department's integrity for the sake of my popularity."
Detective Alex Garcia, the union's Oahu chairman, said he is not asking for Correa's removal but rather "a change in his attitude to work with us and not against us." Garcia said a series of meetings with Correa are scheduled to address the officers' concerns. Both sides should enter those discussions with constructive goals.