Honolulu swears in new Prosecutor: Keith Kaneshiro

By Alicia D. Partridge.


The City of Honolulu swore in the new Prosecutor on Oct. 11, marking the start of a two-year term for Keith Kaneshiro This is a familiar process for Kaneshiro who served as city prosecutor 14-years ago.

He sealed his fate and won the vote in the primaries against Franklin “Don” Paccarro and Darwin Ching. Kaneshiro came out on top with 40.1 percent of the votes totaling 83,055 compared to Parcarro’s 30.4 percent at 63,032. Ching received 14.9 percent with a total of 30,865 votes.

“I am the experienced one,” Kaneshiro said in an interview. “I have the broader view of what is going on in our community.”

Kaneshiro was born and raised in Hawaii. He attended Farrington High School in Honolulu then earned his Bachelors of Science in political science at University of Hawaii Mānoa. He finished his law degree at California Western School of Law and registered with the Hawaii bar association in 1977.

He started out as a private practice lawyer, and in 1989 was elected to serve as Honolulu City Prosecutor. He served two four-year terms.  He chose not to run for a third term “to allow for new ideas”, but feels he “left to early” since many of his programs were discontinued.

“The role of the prosecuting attorney is to be a leader in the law enforcement community,” Kaneshiro said.

According to his website, “Kaneshiro revolutionized the way the office operated by creating new policies and techniques to keep the city safe.”  He created specialized units with additional training and expertise for sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

Since 1995, Keith has served on the Board of Directors and as for the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. This organization assists states across the county in hosting drug summits and drafting drug laws, says his website. President George Bush recognized him for his efforts in drug prevention.

“Time is to critical,” Kaneshiro said. “Its time for me to put my drug knowledge to work.”

All of these issues he plans to address again in this term. When asked about the main problem facing people of O`ahu, he pinpointed the ice epidemic.

“You prevent the issue of drugs by drug treatment,” he said. “You also have to go after the drug organization and take away their profits.”

Overall, he aims to tackle the drug problem by expanding the drug court. He also plans to reinstate his previous specialized units and expand them to manage sexual assault, elderly abuse and domestic violence.

“Our mission is to support treatment plans,” he said. “I will be meeting with some of the agencies to figure out how to support them.”


At the student candidate forum held at University of Hawaii Mānoa on Sept. 13, Kaneshiro explained that if he were to be elected, his first order of business would be to set up a student internship program. The internship would be open to undergraduate social science majors who want to learn more about the office and government. The internship would not be limited to just the Mānoa campus.

“You are the future leaders of our state,” he said at the forum. “My intention is to give students practical experience.”

Kaneshiro has been actively trying to set up the internship with Assistant Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Instruction Ron Cambra, at UH Mānoa in hopes of starting it by the spring 2011 semester.

“Discussions on this have just barely started,” said Prof. Lawrence Nitz, professor of political science at UH Mānoa.  “We have not had the opportunity to discuss the nature of the program with Prosecutor Kaneshiro, but we plan to do so in the next week or two.”

Recently, things have been hectic for the prosecutor’s office with the change in leadership. There has been controversy in regards to Kaneshiro’s decision to not reappoint 11 of the current deputy prosecutors, despite the fact he chose to reappoint the other 90 percent.

“The term firing is incorrect; it gives the wrong connotation,” Kaneshiro said. “I cannot fire people. That is not my job. I appoint people who are going to support the mission.”

He mentioned that he couldn’t discuss individual reasons due to the fact that personnel matters are private.

In addition to reorganizing the office, setting up the internship and specialized units, he is also working on trying to get newer equipment for the investigators.

“They have very old equipment,” he said. “We want to upgrade to make them more effective.”

After finishing out Carlise’s two-year term, Kaneshiro plans to run again for the four-year term.