As Maui Police Commission searches for new MPD chief, many say a major overhaul is needed

"The morale is really bad. We're really short. We can't keep officers here, nobody wants to stay, and we can't hire people."
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 7:10 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 7:25 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Accusations of abuse of power by Maui police leadership are now part of the debate over who will lead the Maui Police Department.

There are five candidates in the running.

John Pelletier, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Captain, is the only non-MPD candidate.

Others are Assistant Chief Victor Ramos, Assistant Chief John Jakubczak, Captain Everett Ferreira, and former Assistant Chief Lawrence Hudson.

Police commissioners will decide by next week.

Based on the public testimony on Thursday, the new chief will have the tough job of restoring trust in the community.

“The morale is really bad. We’re really short. We can’t keep officers here, nobody wants to stay, and we can’t hire people,” said MPD Officer Majorie Kahookele-Pea. “Right now, nobody is going to say anything because fear of retaliation or basically career suicide.”

Several testifiers brought up the allegations of corruption and coverup made by MPD detective Christopher Schmitt.

Schmitt said after responding to an alleged hit-and-run by former Chief Tivoli Faaumu last year, a patrolman was taken by two Criminal Intelligence Unit officers to a remote area and interrogated for hours about who leaked the surveillance video to the media.

Although department officials told Hawaii News Now that the investigation is ongoing, the Internal Affairs commander said it’s complete.

“As the Internal Affairs Commander, I’m not able to discuss the investigation that detective Schmitt touched upon. However, I can assure you that the investigation was done fairly,” said Capt. Ricky Uedoi. “The criminal case is done, and it has been referred to the Attorney General Office for review.”

The commissioners listened to hours of testimony from dozens of people. Many testifiers said the department needs a major overhaul.

“I’m not confident that the changes the community is asking for and has been asking for will be accomplished by hiring within, and this is not my normal position that I would take, I normally advocate for hiring local,” said Maui County Council Vice Chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez. “I advocate today for a clear slate.”

The commissioners will be interviewing the finalists Friday at 8:30 a.m. It will be streamed live so the public can watch it in real time.

The final vote is Tuesday.

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