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Maui police face a ‘staffing crisis’ of their own with alarming number of vacancies

Recruiting and retention is a top priority for the department’s new chief.
Recruiting and retention is a top priority for the department's new chief.
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 6:46 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2022 at 7:15 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are currently 145 vacant positions within the Maui Police Department.

The chair of the Maui Chapter Board of Directors for SHOPO, the police union, calls it a “staffing crisis.”

“In my 21 years, this is the worst our staffing has been, the lowest,” said Sgt. Nick Krau.

“The numbers I just got from the department puts MPD at below 300 officers for the first time … we have a greater than 25-percent vacancy,” Pelletier said to councilmembers last week.

Maui’s new police chief John Pelletier explained to councilmembers last week the dire need to fill them all.

“The best way I can explain it is, cut off one quarter of your body and be asked to perform at the same standard. That’s like taking a sprinter and saying, ‘Hey, go run this race but we’re going to take your leg off,’” said Pelletier.

MPD officials said of the 145 vacant positions, 101 of them are for sworn personnel and 44 are for civilian positions.

Sgt. Krau says the shortage puts the community at risk.

“This staffing crisis puts an unsafe strain on the remaining officers and is an unsustainable staffing model,” Krau said.

Krau said the issue isn’t just recruiting, but the large number of departures.

“Officers are leaving either due to retirement, early retirements, officers transferring to departments on the mainland, and officers moving on to other careers,” he said.

Krau said it’s unclear why there are so many officers leaving, although the leadership change may be an issue.

He said officers are working longer hours and have fewer days off.

Chief Pelletier said recruitment has always been one of his top priorities and his biggest challenge. He said he is personally talking to recruits emphasizing that it can be a rewarding career.

“This is something that’s so important. This is a calling,” Pelletier said.

“Our brother and sister police officers are the best in the nation as far as I’m concerned,” said Krau. “It’s a rewarding career and it’s something I can go home, and when I see my family, I can be proud of myself, and they can be proud of me because of the job that I do every day.”

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