A few days after Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta announced that he was hanging up his hat and moving to Oahu to run a small, federally funded anti-drug office, an employee of the County of Maui stopped me. “What are you guys going to do if they chose a new Maui Police chief who’s more to your liking?” the employee asked.
I told the employee, who holds a position of some authority, that I thought that highly unlikely, but the employee wouldn’t hear of it. “I hear they’re looking outside the department,” the employee said. “They could hire a woman, someone who’d make real changes.”
“Then,” I said, “we’d write nice things about the chief.”
“That’s not why I read MauiTime!” the employee said, and we had a good laugh.
The thought of the Maui Police Department hiring a chief whose views on law enforcement coincide with this paper’s is about as possible as Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar announcing that they’re converting all of their 37,000 acres of sugarcane over to fruits and vegetables. It’s a nice thought, but not particularly credible.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped The Maui News from reporting that a new day may, in fact, be dawning over at the department’s Wailuku headquarters. “We’re raising the bar,” the paper quotes Police Commission Chairman Roger Dixon as saying in this May 29 story (subscription required). And how is the commission “raising the bar” in its search for a new police chief? By requiring–for the first time!–that “applicants for police chief have at least a college bachelor’s degree or be a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, VA,” the paper reported. They’re also increasing the chief applicant’s minimum number of years in law enforcement from five years–FIVE YEARS!–to 15.
While Yabuta himself meets these qualifications (his bachelor’s degree is in sociology, of all things), apparently some of MPD brass doesn’t. And though Yabuta and his two immediate predecessors had all been Maui PD deputy chiefs before rising to the top job, The Maui News also reported that the Police Commission is also considering making the chief’s job a five-year contract gig, like other big cities. Biggest of all, though, is the news that the commission will accept applicants from outside of Maui, though anyone who gets the job will have had to live in Hawaii for 60 days prior to getting the job.
On paper, these are solid reforms, and might just lead to the appointment of a chief with far more progressive views on, say, the photographing of cops in public during the course of their police work. But given the fact that the Maui PD has basically policed itself for its entire life, I don’t think readers should worry about seeing MauiTime suddenly praise the department any time soon.
(Disclosure: MauiTime Owner/Publisher Tommy Russo is currently suing the County of Maui over an alleged assault by a Maui police officer.)
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