HONOLULU — A police major was selected Wednesday as the first woman to be chief of the Honolulu Police Department — an agency that has been rocked by a federal corruption investigation.

The police commission voted for Maj. Susan Ballard to replace Louis Kealoha, who agreed to retire amid the investigation.

Last week, a federal grand jury indicted Kealoha, his deputy city prosecutor wife and four current and former officers on allegations of conspiring to frame a man.

According to the indictment, the Kealohas orchestrated the theft of their home mailbox in an attempt to discredit Katherine Kealoha’s uncle in a family financial dispute. The Kealohas have pleaded not guilty.

Ballard told reporters the allegations made her angry.

Ballard, a 32-year veteran of the department, stood out because she “discussed exactly what she was going to do and what her priorities were,” said Loretta Sheehan, a member of the commission.

“She was inspirational,” Sheehan said.

Ballard said she wasn’t yet ready to publicly discuss those plans.

“Chief Susan Ballard has a major challenge in restoring public trust in the leadership of the Honolulu Police Department,” acting Honolulu Mayor Roy K. Amemiya Jr. said in a statement.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who is on vacation, and his administration look forward to sitting down with her very soon to discuss the long-term vision for the department, Amemiya said.

Ballard, 60, was born in Virginia and grew up in North Carolina, according to the department. She’s currently the commander of the Central Receiving Division. Her previous assignments include the Training Division and Finance Division.

Finalists included a former Pennsylvania police major, a retired chief in Texas and a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

A date for Ballard’s swearing-in hasn’t been set. She must first pass physical and psychological tests.

Friday’s unsealing of the indictment added pressure on the commission to select a chief.

“We were very conscious of HPD being left rudderless, and we keenly felt the department was hurting and they wanted direction and they wanted their faith restored,” Sheehan said.

The seven-member commission needs four votes to take any action, so the police chief decision had to be unanimous because Chairman Max Sword recused himself from the vote because his wife is related to one of the finalists, and because two commissioners recently resigned, including Luella Costales, who complained about a lack of diversity in the panel that scored written exams of candidates.

The selection process also gained attention when Sword nominated the wife of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” reality TV star Duane “Dog” Chapman to have a role in helping pick the chief. After public outcry over the nomination of Beth Chapman, the commission scrapped plans for a citizen panel that would have helped screen candidates.

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JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
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