When police and protestors clashed over the Haleakala solar telescope last week, the police did an admirable and professional job of handling a chaotic and stressful situation.
The telescope parts were successfully delivered.
But that was not enough because law enforcement was not prepared to be ambushed on social media.
Although most protestors made their heartfelt message known by being arrested peacefully, others seemed to intentionally provoke police.
When one man who rushed the trucks was forcefully arrested, selective videos were quickly posted on the internet, claiming police brutality.
Maui police leaders had their own video – on officer body cams. But rather than release it quickly to counter the demonstrators' posts, they took all day and issued a press release defending the arrest.
By then, more than 100,000 people had viewed the protestors' video. The result was unmeasurable damage to the department's reputation. Officers doing a difficult job were made to look like thugs, and the protestors like victims.
When it comes to Mauna Kea – and potentially bigger confrontation – the whole world will be watching.
Hawaii law enforcement needs to break out of its secretive tendencies and prepare to meet protestors both on the ground, and on the internet.