Despite criticism from former commanders, MPD chief stands by changes to training, staffing

Eleven weeks into his new position, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier is defending a host of changes that have prompted some of his commanders to leave.
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 11:24 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2022 at 11:25 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Eleven weeks into his new position, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier is defending a host of changes that have prompted some of his commanders to leave.

Several of them have decided to leave the department that is already severely short staffed.

“Of course there’s going to pushback, but we’re going to do everything we can for the citizens and visitors of this community to make it the safest community possible,” said MPD Chief John Pelletier.

Former Assistant Chief Clyde Holokai, former Capt. Ricky Uedoi, and former Lt. William Hankins have all recently retired. They all say an early retirement wasn’t part of their plans.

“I just feel like I’m unwanted and unneeded down there by this administration,” said Hankins.

“So I made the decision that what’s best for me and my families is for me to retire, and then I can still be an advocate for the families without the police department’s help.”

Hankins served the Maui Police Department for 30 years. He most recently led the department’s traffic division. He organized rallies for victims of impaired driving crashes, worked with state agencies on traffic safety plans, and advocated for tougher drunk driving penalties.

He and others were unhappy the chief cut hours from DUI training for recruits.

“Now is not the time to do this,” said SHOPO Maui Chapter Chair Sgt. Nick Krau.

“Maui County, 49% of our traffic fatalities are alcohol-related. In fact, we should be focusing more attention on this DUI program.”

The chief said he only eliminated a training that involved citizens being asked to get drunk while recruits monitor them.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “conducting live alcohol workshops is the optimal way of achieving the learning objectives of this training.”

“Instead of having a static role player that’s only going to respond or pretend to be drunk … the officers that are coming out are going to be more efficiently trained and they’re actually going to get real-world training in the field training and evaluation program,” Pelletier said.

Uedoi served MPD for 29 years and was head of Internal Affairs before he left.

He retired rather than be transferred to Molokai for two years as the chief wanted. Uedoi said that’s normally where rookie officers go.

“I tried to explain that I already been there, and he said, ‘I don’t care. That’s your assignment. That’s where you’re going.’ And, you know, for me, I was shocked,” Uedoi said.

“It was obvious that I was being forced to make a decision that I really didn’t want to make. But I had to make the decision. My decision was to walk away from this job that I had so much passion for.”

Pelletier said the captain was needed more on Molokai.

“We have the ability and the right to make this the most efficient, operationally-effective department possible and especially in light of the reduction in workforce that we have,” he said.

Holokai retired this week after 28 years of service. Holokai said he turned in his badge after learning about cuts to hands-on, self-defense training.

“Our culture here is more physical and less gun,” Holokai said. “Now they’re giving their guys a situation where they could get hurt.”

The chief said he actually added training to focus more on de-escalation instead.

“We would never compromise officer safety. There are more efficient ways to do some of the training and we’re going to make sure we do that,” Pelletier said.

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