You don’t find vice cops who become addicted to methamphetamine that they steal out of police evidence and then pretend to have cancer to mask their addictions in every department. So when a publicist contacted us a few weeks ago, asking if we wanted to review Shards, a new memoir by Allison Moore–the former Maui Police Officer whose own on-the-job meth addiction really did lead her to steal from and lie to her department colleagues–we jumped at the chance.
And given the book’s breathless promotion–by no less a publisher than Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone–how could we refuse? Especially given the national attention that’s been lavished on the book–both London’s Daily Mail and the New York Post have written about the book.
“Now after extensive rehab, a year in jail, and a lifetime worth of guilt, Allison is ready to tell her story and make amends to those she so painfully betrayed,” reads Touchstone’s press release on the book. “Astounding, gripping and told firsthand in a deeply sympathetic voice SHARDS lays clean the raw details of Allison Moore’s addiction and betrayal that cost her everything…”
In fact, Moore’s book (which was written “with Nancy Woodruff”) is pretty much the opposite of “gripping” and “deeply sympathetic.” It’s full of unclear thinking and hypocrisy. Worst of all, Moore repeatedly refers to herself–without irony!–as having been a “good cop,” someone who joined the force to “make an impact on the Hawaiian community I had grown to love.” Anyone who read the newspaper in 2010, the year she was arrested, tried and convicted, knows exactly how much of an “impact” Moore made on the island, and the department itself.
Shards is a deeply cynical book. It retails for $24.99, a steep price for any book, much less one written by a convicted felon. Speaking of which, what exactly does Moore intend to do with the proceeds?
“A portion of the proceeds will go to Catch a Falling Star, a program that offers multiple resources to law enforcement officers and their families including suicide prevention and drug addiction counseling,” one of Moore’s publicists told us.“She is also working to repay her family and family friends for the money they spent on rehab and legal fees on her behalf.”
When asked to quantify the “portion” of the proceeds Moore was donating to charity, the publicist refused, saying only that it would be a “nice portion.”
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The thing about drug memoirs is that they seem good in theory–full of crime, sex and lies–but usually end up being pretty dull. Though this book at first seems to be a love story between rookie Moore and a married MPD cop she calls “Keawe” (she changes nearly everyone’s name in the book, making it virtually useless to historians, journalists and anyone else hoping for an inside look at the force), it quickly degenerates into an examination of Moore’s lust for meth, which is far from compelling.
According to court records, Moore served in the Maui PD for five years, from the summer of 2004 to September 2009. For much of that time, she smoked (and later shot up) meth. Her reasons for doing so are never really clear, but she seems to believe they stem from her “addictive personality.”
Today, Moore lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is where she lived before moving to Maui more than a decade ago. Her stated reason for moving to Maui is all too common: “All I’d ever wanted from Maui was a new life, completely different from my old one, and now it looked like I was going to have it.” But what people who move to Maui expecting “a new life” often find, to their horror, is that their old life usually makes the trip, too.
There were a hundred MPD applicants in 2004, Moore writes. Of those, she says 24 made it into a recruit class, with 13 eventually washing out. Moore was one of the 11 who finally passed and got a badge and gun.
Though Moore calls herself a “by the book recruit,” she admits she took amphetamines during training. She insists she took the drug unknowingly, but also admits that she concealed it–and the name of the recruit who gave her the drug–from her supervisors.
Her career saw her serve in Wailuku, Lanai and Lahaina. Though Moore was already addicted to meth when she joined the MPD’s vice squad in 2008, she writes that “I was finally doing what I had always wanted to do: focusing on narcotics, getting them out of the community.” She dismisses this chasm of illogic with a single sentence: “I understood what a hypocrite I was being, but I didn’t care.”
Then there’s this gem of a delusion, which she writes when describing her first becoming addicted to meth:
“I was never one of those cops who thought they were above the law, but I did recognize the power I had. No one searched a cop. No one questioned a cop. Except for our random drug tests, we were immune. I could carry a packet of ice around with me and no one would ever know.”
I’m pretty sure that a cop carrying around a packet of ice for her own personal use is the definition of feeling “above the law.”
Though Moore says in the book that she “loves” the Maui PD– “thank you for taking me into your family, for giving your unconditional love, and for providing me with opportunities that I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams,” she writes in the Acknowledgments–she tosses casual insults at the MPD and its cops throughout the book.
Moore writes that she loved the “local boys” in her recruit class, calling them “funny, humble, encouraging” but found the white guys “typical meatheads.” She assumes that one “heavy” applicant (whom she calls “Fatso”), who she writes was “far from qualified,” ended up earning his badge because “his father worked in the department.” Another female recruit was “making the mistakes most girls make coming into a department–sleeping with the patrol guys before recruit school even ended.”
No, Moore had class. She waited until she was out of recruit school before she says she started sleeping with one of the cops–and a married one with kids, at that.
She calls her sergeant during the year she spent on Lanai “a lazy, unreliable oaf who could make a volatile situation worse.” Cops at the MPD were “huge sexists,” but would actually respect a female officer “once they proved themselves.” One cop “was a bit lazy, never following up, never doing his paperwork.” Another watched porn “for about an hour” on a PlayStation Portable during surveillance. The assistant chief who promoted her into vice “was an asshole by all accounts.” Dispatchers are “cop groupies and love cops, except for the female ones.” One day, Moore “passed the L&L [which she name-drops constantly] between calls and saw a bunch of cops in there, eating for free, pursued by all the badge-bunny waitresses.”
That last statement is curious, because L&L’s restaurants on Maui are strictly counter operations and don’t employ waitresses. Then again, Moore also seems to think that the word “tita” is a “Hawaiian term for dyke” and Happy Valley is a war-zone where “gangs from all over the island meet to fight.”
Moore also repeatedly ridicules cops who drink–which given the fact that she eventually spent a year in prison for crimes stemming from meth addiction, is odd indeed. The MPD officer Moore fell in love with was “solid, and not a heavy drinker, which was rare for a Hawaiian cop.” Another colleague’s drinking “was exactly why I didn’t like to socialize with other cops.”
Moore even disses her only real friend on the force. Called “Erin” in the book, Moore writes that she had a “heart of gold” but “drank too much.” In fact, Moore–an admitted meth addict who stole from police evidence and her own family members–twice goes out of her way to use the phrase “drank too much” when describing Erin.
It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the MPD, until you recall that Moore somehow made it all the way through recruit training–and spent five years in uniform–before getting busted for her myriad crimes. In fact, Police Commission records show, the department was still awarding her commendations as late as December 2008.
To conceal her meth addiction–and the fact that she was wasting away and spending all her time smoking instead of working–Moore told her colleagues that she had cancer. She even forged a couple doctor notes. This is a matter of public record. So are the names of the 88 cops–including Chief Gary Yabuta, Deputy Chief Clayton Tom and now-retired Assistant Chief Wayne Ribao–who donated more than 2,000 hours of their accumulated leave to her after she used up her allotted vacation time (only 23 were actually able to do so before the department discovered Moore’s crimes).
They had thought she was away on the Mainland, getting chemotherapy for ovarian cancer and lymphoma. In fact, she was using meth–some of which she took from evidence gathered by the MPD during drug busts.
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Neither the MPD nor the Maui County Prosecutor’s Office would comment for this story, and Touchstone’s publicist said Moore was refusing to do interviews with “Hawaiian media.”
Given the fact that Hawaii reporters have access to Moore’s court files, this is perhaps a wise move. For instance, near the end of her book Moore said that in August 2010 she changed her plea “from not guilty to guilty” because “I knew I couldn’t live through a trial” and, besides, “had wanted to plead guilty right from the beginning.”
In fact, court records show that Moore changed her plea to no contest–which does not include the admission of guilt of a “guilty” plea–after the Prosecutor’s Office offered to drop a ticket-fixing charge.
At her trial, Judge Richard Bissen asked Moore what her punishment should be. “Probation,” Moore replied. Bissen’s face must have been something to see when she said that. In its case, the Prosecutor’s Office had laid out enough charges to net her 107 years of imprisonment.
“The Defendant should not be rewarded again for her deceitfulness,” Prosecutor Lewis Littlepage said in an Oct. 28, 2010 court filing. “Defendant should not be unjustly enriched for her deliberate and planned actions.”
In the end, Bissen let her off relatively easy with just a year behind bars and another five of probation. He also ordered her to pay more than $20,000 in restitution to the County of Maui, the Maui Police Relief Association and the cops who donated their leave to Moore.
The portions of the book dealing with the police response to Moore’s “cancer,” her subsequent arrest on charges of forgery, stealing evidence and drug use can at least be compared to the court record. As for the rest of the book–her love affair with a married MPD cop, lifelong drug use, numerous failed suicide attempts and the month or so she endured physical and emotional terror from her Seattle “dealer” (which seemed to end, incredibly, after Moore’s mother simply threatened to call the cops on him)–that’s up to the reader.
Assessing Moore’s credibility is a task made difficult (or easy, depending on how little empathy you’ve developed for her) by passages like the following, which appears slightly halfway through her book:
“My ability to lie is a skill I wish upon no one,” Moore writes in her book. “I am a chameleon in the worst way: I can slither and adapt to suit the needs of anyone I want something from. This is what made me a good cop.”
Keep in mind that those sentences are in the present tense, not the past.
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By Allison Moore
Touchstone, 2014. $24.99
(Disclosure: MauiTime Owner/Publisher Tommy Russo is currently suing the County of Maui over an alleged assault by a Maui police officer.)
Cover design: Darris Hurst and Shane Fontanilla; Photo of Allison Moore: Touchstone Publicity
About Anthony Pignataro
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He started work as MauiTime's Editor in 2003, took a couple years off starting in 2008, then returned to the staff in 2011. He's the author of "Stealing Cars With The Pros," a 2013 collection of his journalism and the Maui novels "Small Island" (2011) and "The Dead Season" (2012)–all of which were published by Event Horizon Press. In 2014, his one-act play "War Stories" won second place in the Maui Fringe Festival.