LIHU’E — Kaua’i Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste has asked members of the Kaua’i Police Commission to fire Kaua’i Police Department Chief K.C. Lum, citing lack of leadership by Lum that has left the department officers divided, and lack of commitment by Lum to build better communications with his officers and officials with county agencies.
In response, Lum said Baptiste, who met with reporters yesterday at the Lihu’e Civic Center to make his announcement, can ask commission members to take action.
But whatever action is taken, he said, “I hope the Police Commission will look at the situation objectively, and make a decision favorable to the future of the Kaua’i Police Department and the community.”
Kaua’i Police Commission Chairwoman Carol Furtado and Vice Chairman Russell Grady were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
In explaining his call for Lum to step down, Baptiste said that, when the chief was sworn into office 16 months ago, “we discussed the fact that he was taking over a factionalized department, and that my measure of his true success as chief would be his ability to bring the department together, moving ahead as one team. This has not happened, and I truly feel that there is more divisiveness within the department today.”
Kaua’i County Councilmembers Mel Rapozo and Shaylene Iseri- Carvalho attended the meeting, and say they support Baptiste’s decision.
“I support the mayor, fully support the mayor,” Rapozo said. “This move is a sad day for Kaua’i. I must admit this is not something you want to see.” At the same time, “I think this is the right move,” he said.
Iseri-Carvalho said she wasn’t surprised by Baptiste’s announcement.
“I am glad that is happening,” she said. “I think it was very important for this step to have been taken.”
Supporters of Lum have pointed to more drug arrests in line with a top priority of Baptiste’s administration to halt the use of crystal methamphetamine on Kaua’i, and a low number of sickleave cases by KPD’s more than 140 officers, indicating a dedication to their work and professionalism.
Baptiste said KPD’s problems are real, and noted the challenges facing KPD stem from a “basic lack of effective communication” on the part of Lum and members of his administration.
Baptiste said cabinet members hand in weekly reports on the work of those in county departments, but he noted that he has “not received a single weekly report since he (Lum) took office.”
Lum said he readily offers verbal reports on KPD’s operations during cabinet meetings.
“I give the information on major events, fatality or homicides, or criminal cases,” Lum said.
But Baptiste said his overriding concern is Lum’s “demonstrated lack of necessary leadership and communication skills to unite the department.
That lack of attention by Lum in providing reports to Baptiste, members of the council and other government agencies bothers him, Rapozo said.
As the chair of the council’s Energy and Public Safety Committee, Rapozo said he has frequently asked for “information from Lum, supplemental documentation on requests and copies of policies.
“We just don’t get any response from the chief,” Rapozo said.
“Over the last few months meeting with SHOPO (leaders of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers), we found out he also has not responded to the union. He has not responded to the civil service, our (Kaua’i County) personnel department.”
Lum said he has tried to enhance communications with all who want information, and they, including Baptiste and administration officials, can get what they want by merely picking up the phone.
“If there is information, I can pick up the phone and call him (Baptiste),” Lum said.
Baptiste emphasized that the removal of Lum will not solve all of KPD’s problems.
“I fully understand that the problems within the Kaua’i Police Department run deep,” Baptiste said.
He said his decision was based on “what is best not just for the department, but for the people of Kaua’i,” Baptiste said.
But Lum indicated that decision, in part, was politically motivated, noting, “this is an election year,” and that SHOPO leaders’ support is likely to play an in important role in Baptiste’s bid for re-election to another four-year term.
For the department to move ahead, Lum has to step down, the audit has to be done, and healing within the department has to occur, Baptiste said.
KPD officers want to see something happen soon, Baptiste indicated.In talking with officers in the last few weeks, “a lot of them are very tired of the infighting, and a lot of them are tired of the burden that this has put on the department, and want to move forward,” Baptiste said.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco. com.
We asked you
In The Garden Island’s nonscientific online poll asking Have you lost faith in the Kaua’i Police Department’s ability to uphold public safety? 154 of 425 respondents voted yes, representing 36 percent of the total. Some 271 voted no, representing 64 percent of the total.