Hawaii police chiefs defend themselves on video, but won’t take reporters’ questions

Updated: Mar. 17, 2021 at 4:41 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Communicating with the public is becoming a one-sided, scripted event for three of Hawaii’s police chiefs.

They’ve refused multiple media requests for interviews on the challenges facing their departments ― and criticism of them personally ― instead using department-produced video statements to make their case.

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard has used them twice already this month: Once to address a quota system for patrol officers and a second time to discuss an investigation into excessive overtime that was paid for with CARES Act funds.

Ballard also put together a department-produced video last year when an anonymous letter was sent to police commissioners accusing her of mismanagement.

Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck, meanwhile, posted a video this week after denying interview requests from the media regarding an investigation into comments he allegedly made were racist.

Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faamu started using department-produced videos in 2019, after refusing to do interviews on police misconduct.

Meda Chesney Lind, Criminology professor at the University of Hawaii, said good police departments “have to be available to the media and have to be willing to hear the hard questions and answer the hard questions.”

“Accountability is important,” Lind said, adding that transparency fosters public trust.

Hawaii News Now has numerous emails from the various police departments declining to do interviews with reporters on controversial subjects.

Again and again, reporters are directed to video or written statements.

Lind said the county’s police commissioners have to hold the chiefs accountable when the media cannot get answers from them. Lately, commissioners have also declined interviews and instead offered written statements that do not allow for reporter questions.

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