Guest Commentary for Monday — February 13, 2006

It appears that Kaua’i has gotten itself into another pickle with another police chief. This time it is K.C. Lum.

Once again, the people of Kaua’i will be the ones who lose. Mayor Bryan Baptiste should take immediate action on this one to avoid long-term financial loss. In a manner similar to the one used with the previous chief (George Freitas), an offer should be made for immediate settlement and retirement. It’s time to send Lum on his way, preserving his dignity.

By playing the race card, Lum has bought himself just enough time to make it to retirement. He can fight it out, and drag it on, and be sure to get paid for the next three years. But the only reason that the county would have to counter his claim of racism, is to see if his Asian ancestry has gotten him promoted ahead of others, or given him special consideration for other desirable positions in the past. An in-depth investigation would be required, but more skeletons may be found in closets than many may want to encounter.

Mayor Baptiste should also consider asking for the resignations of all of the Police Commissioners. They got Kaua’i into this mess in the first place. About a week before they conducted interviews seeking a new police chief in 2004, they were all sent to the Ritz Carlton on Maui to attend a commissioner’s conference. At that conference they learned from law enforcement leadership professionals about the hiring of a police chief. They were given volumes of literature on how to correctly select a chief, as well as lessons learned from making poor selections.

The police commissioners then conducted topnotch interviews, and ultimately made a decision that got Kaua’i in the mess it is in now.

How is it that they picked what appears to be the least qualified candidate, with communication skills that are best described by those who have witnessed them firsthand as “embarrassing”?

What were the police commissioners thinking?

Why are they still allowed to be in positions that will affect their community so adversely?

Finally, it has been said more than once, “You get what you pay for.” It is time to increase the salary of the police chief to reflect the true responsibility of the post.

This is the No. 1 law enforcement official in the county. The CEO. The top dog.

Why is it that a person with such an important job is getting paid less than some of his first-line supervisors? It doesn’t make any sense. If Kaua’i would offer a salary that is comparable with the other chiefs in the state, and is truly reflective of the responsibility of the position, perhaps they would draw more qualified candidates.

The true economics of the matter reflect that Kaua’i is paying top dollar. But only because they are settling lawsuits from bad decisions that were made in the past. I think Kaua’i deserves better. Instead of paying bad leaders good money in the form of settlements, you should consider paying good leaders up front for doing what your community truly deserves.

Bobby Hill was one of the candidates for police chief on Kaua’i in 2004. He lives on Maui

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