Maui police chief defends decision to send officers to Mauna Kea

Updated: Aug. 8, 2019 at 11:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At a Maui County Council meeting Thursday, Maui’s police chief defended his decision to send 27 MPD officers to the Big Island last month to assist with the TMT conflict.

“The officers that we deploy in supporting the mission on the Big Island is no loss to anybody, but to maintain peace,” said Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu.

But some council members say the police shouldn’t have gone to the protest at Mauna Kea.

"I don't believe that our police officers needed to be sent to Hawaii island. I don't support our officers going there. They should be here in Maui County," said Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Maui County Council vice-chair.

Maui police say the assignment cost more than $68,000 in overtime.

“The state attorney general is responsible for reimbursing the cost of the expenses, but if for some reason the Attorney General is unable to pay all the expenses then it will be the responsibility of the county, Hawaii County for reimbursement of Maui County,” said Faaumu.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino’s office added in a statement:

“Hawaii County requested the assistance. It is ultimately responsible for reimbursement. However, the state Department of the Attorney General will be picking up the reimbursement for the counties.”

But some said that explanation doesn’t cut it.

“I think it was a frivolous expense for all of us to be there especially with all the things that we need to get done,” said Tamara Paltin, Maui County Council Member.

In a letter to the council, Fauumu said ‘the County of Maui taxpayers will not incur any cost in relation to the travel and police presence on Maunakea.’

But council members say Maui will have to pay about $12,000 to fill the shifts of six Wailuku officers and other costs are still adding up including the back-fill for the Kihei shifts and increased retirement benefits.

Both Honolulu and Maui county are being sued over sending officers to Mauna Kea.

"The things that took me be surprise were their inability to defend their legal authority in sending our officers to Hawaii Island and that there are items that our county will not be reimbursed for.

Maui’s corporation counsel said they would not did not comment on the lawsuit in Thursday’s council meeting.

When asked about Maui’s resources, Faaumu says Maui is the priority, but officers could go back to Mauna Kea if necessary.

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