With just a year under his belt, MPD chief reflects on his achievements and obstacles

John Pelletier has been in charge of the Maui Police Department for 401 days now.
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 6:28 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 7:20 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With just a year under his belt, Maui County’s top cop says he is proud of his progress. But he also admits there are some things he could have done better.

John Pelletier has been in charge of the Maui Police Department for 401 days now.

He said he’s learned a lot, not just about policing in Hawaii, but of the people in Hawaii.

He has more than two decades in law enforcement, but says serving in the Aloha State is different.

“I’ve learned that coconut wireless is real. I had no idea that it existed,” Pelletier said.

All playfulness aside, the Buffalo, New York native said being a part of the MPD ohana has been an honor.

“We have incredible people who day in and day out, do work that really is some of the best public safety work in the nation, if not the world,” said Pelletier.

In the last 13 months, Pelletier has been tasked with filling dozens of vacancies.

The latest report shows there are currently 105 vacant officer positions. On the civilian side, the department is only 64% staffed.

In all, a vacancy rate of about 29%. Recruitment and retention continues to be one of Pelletier’s top priorities.

“We’re hiring,” he said.

“And if you’re thinking about an exciting career, if you’re thinking about being part of something bigger than yourself, you’re thinking about serving your community, this is an incredible community. It has so much to offer. Why not give back if you can?”

Pelletier says his greatest achievement has been transparency.

But his toughest challenge? Understanding the culture and being understood. Pelletier admitted his communication skills could be improved.

“The rise and fall of any organization or any relationship... communication will make or break you,” Pelletier said. “We’re constantly striving to figure out how to communicate as effectively as possible.”

He recently implemented a suggestion box that led to reduced overtime.

Plus, new equipment like nylon gear and load-bearing vests are now options for officers. The average belt weighs about 20 pounds.

“20 pounds every day for 30 years is detrimental to your knees and to your back,” Pelletier said. “So, this gives the ability to take some of that equipment and actually put it on the upper part of your body.”

Pelletier said these changes have noticably boosted morale within the department.

“Despite being short staffed, and despite some of the many challenges the profession has had, they do incredible work every day, both sworn and unsworn. They impress the heck out of me and they do right by this county,” Pelletier said.

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