Kauai chief blames politics
Lum says interference exacerbates problems among the county's 120 police officers
LIHUE » Embattled Kauai Police Chief K.C. Lum said yesterday he is not worried about losing his job, despite calls for his removal by the mayor and the police union.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Lum said he has a plan to improve sinking morale and end the bitter infighting that has taken over the Garden Isle's 120-member police force.
Since he became the full-time chief in December 2004, Lum said, numerous officers, many in senior positions, have "gone outside the department to change the course of management. ... It is wrong."
The way to fix the department is to cut the political strings from many of their members by forcing them to follow the proper chain of command, he said.
Numerous officers have been quoted by county councilmembers, police commissioners, and even the mayor in their reasons for asking for Lum's removal.
Kauai County Council Chairman Kaipo Asing, when discussing the Council's investigation into the Police Department, said officers had been coming to both his house and his office to discuss how bad the problems are.
Officers and politicians have cited low morale, lack of leadership, pending lawsuits, favoritism and allegations of corruption under Lum's watch as reasons to remove him.
Even the police union, in an open letter to reporters this week requesting the Kauai Police Commission to remove Lum, said its members had filed Board of Ethics complaints against Police Commissioners Carol Furtado and Michael Ching and Deputy Chief Ron Venneman regarding the chief's selection in 2004.
But Lum says many of the problems could have been solved if the officers had come to him first instead of letting the politicians play it out in public.
"If that happened, unity would be (achieved) pretty quick," Lum continued.
Lum said in the past 20 years, the infusion of politics with police management has caused problems with almost every chief.
"None came up with the definition of the problem," he said. "I just did."
Yet the police union, the Council and the mayor have cited Lum's lack of response to verbal and written correspondence as one of the main problems with his administration.
Even yesterday, at the twice-monthly Council committee meetings, Lum was requested to appear to discuss his goals for the department in the coming year. He picked the date in September. But he was in Honolulu and sent an assistant chief to request a two-week deferral, rankling members of the County Council who have already questioned his leadership.
"The message needs to get sent of (our) disappointment," said Mel Rapozo, one of the chief's most vocal critics on the Council. "His nonappearance (following repeated requests for information that went unanswered) just makes it worse."
Lum says his lack of response to various communications is "a misunderstanding I have to take responsibility for."
Despite working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, he has been unable to keep up with the requests without a private secretary, Lum said, adding that a volunteer will likely be helping out soon to help alleviate the problem.
In the meantime he is asking for politicians to let him lead the department.
With the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers requesting his removal, it might be tough for politicians to stay away, Lum admits.
"This is an election year," he said. "The SHOPO endorsement is well prized by politicians."