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In wake of several high-profile crimes on Oahu, HPD fails to provide crucial info to public

Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 10:36 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - There was another high-profile murder in Honolulu this week — and once again, there was a lack of communication from the Honolulu Police Department in sharing crucial information.

It’s part of a broader trend with the department, which is being heavily criticized for poor communication with journalists and the public.

On Saturday night Malakai ‘Mo’ Maumalanga, 45, was gunned down in his own driveway in Aiea. The armed men are still on the run, but no one from HPD — neither Chief Susan Ballard or the acting Homicide Captain Deena Thoemmes — agreed to an interview on the case.

Critics say withholding information is detrimental to the peace in the community.

“The public is fearful. The neighborhood is probably traumatized,” said retired federal agent Tommy Aiu, “Quell fear, and the best way to do that is transparency.”

Ballard also never spoke publicly when an 18-month old went missing last month. Kytana Ancog was in the care of her father, a convicted felon with a violent past. Days later he was charged with her murder.

And earlier this month, 50-year-old Gerald “Jerry” Waialae was stabbed to death on the freeway. The killer is still on the run.

Despite these cases, there were no news conferences that would’ve allowed reporters to ask follow-up questions.

Aiu said providing information to the public doesn’t just ease fear, it also can help bring in valuable information on the case.

“Let’s them know that the police department is there to help them and that they seek public help,” Aiu said.

HPD has two spokespeople, but when HNN asks for interviews or information, pre-recorded video or written statements are provided with no chance for questions or clarification.

In the most recent slaying in Aiea, HNN specifically asked for Thoemmes for an on-camera update, but were told no one was available.

HPD’s own policy reads, “The officer in charge (OIC) at a crime scene or newsworthy event is responsible for providing available information to accredited news media representatives.”

Last week, under pressure to be more transparent, Ballard offered six media outlets individual online interviews, but there was a strictly enforced 10-minute limit.

“We’ll start the clock and then at two minutes we’ll give you a warning,” the moderator said at the beginning.

The format, similar to speed-dating, meant HNN did not get all our questions in or answered.

“The idea that HPD would retrench and that the chief would go into just video statements and 10 minute speed dates and not take hard questions from the public is simply unacceptable,” said Joshua Wisch, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii.

Wisch said the Honolulu Police Commission needs to do more to push the chief for transparency.

“The temperature on the stove needs to go up on that.” Wisch said, adding that Ballard routinely brushes off the concerns of the commissioners and they don’t do enough to hold her accountable.

Ballard’s annual review by the group is expected to be released publicly next week.

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