[This story has been updated to include Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu’s Oct. 22 video message to the public.]
It’s another week, and that means another Maui Police Officer has been busted for some form of criminal behavior. If there was ever a time for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to start looking into the Maui PD, it’s now. In fact, things are so bad that Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu himself recorded a 1:29 video message to the public on Oct. 22 (click here to see it posted on MauiWatch). Though a good gesture that’s clearly meant to reassure the public, it actually reinforces the notion that something is dreadfully wrong at the department.
“I want to reassure the public that wrongdoing by members of the department, such as corruption, will not be tolerated,” Faaumu says in the message, which oddly opens and closes with almost whimsical music. “Any employee that violates the law will be held accountable, both criminally and internally.”
What prompted Faaumu’s message was the following press release, sent out by his department on Oct. 21:
On 10/21/15 at about 09:00 a.m., Chase K. Keliipaakaua (29), from Kihei, was placed under arrest for the offense of Bribery Of A Witness and Hindering Prosecution In The First Degree. Keliipaakaua has been a sworn police officer with the Maui Police Department with about 6 years of service. He was released pending further investigation. In addition, an Administrative Investigation was initiated and he has been assigned to desk duties.
Though the email containing the press release stated that “no other information [was] available,” the information about Keliipaakaua’s arrest was helpfully attached to a previous press release sent out earlier this month on Maui Police Officer Anthony Maldonado’s arrest for second degree theft (he was also later re-arrested for bribery of a witness and hindering prosecution, just like Keliipaakaua).
In the last six months or so, this brings the grand total of Maui Police Officers arrested for allegedly committing crimes up to four. In addition to Keliipaakaua and Maldonado (who at least had the decency to smile like a bro in his booking photo), the MPD arrested Officer Rachel Garvin at the end of May for allegedly driving under the influence and Officer John Salomon in June for also driving under the influence and (reportedly) for nine counts of indecent exposure in Pukalani (Salomon was also arrested in June in Newport Beach, California for allegedly being drunk in public).
Yes, I know there are more 470 personnel working at the Maui Police Department. And, as Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa pointed out in his “Ask the Mayor” column back in June, “problem employees can be found in any workplace.”
But I also know–and pretty much everyone on Maui knows–that the Maui Police Department is not “any workplace.” Maui cops carry guns and badges that allow them to use those guns–to use deadly force–on members of the public deemed to be threats. Maui police officers have access to military-style weapons, training and a giant armored truck known as a Bearcat.
We often talk of holding police “to a higher standard”–of expecting them to behave like the guardians of the rule of law that (at least in theory) they are. The thing about the above arrests isn’t that they represent a tiny fraction of the overall force, but that they’re happening at all. Where law enforcement is concerned, a single criminal cop tarnishes the entire department.
“Hold them [the police] accountable,” retired MPD cop Lawrence Kauha‘aha‘a told Wailuku residents and merchants during an Oct. 20 Maui Redevelopment Agency meeting on the town’s new “safety ambassador” program. “They know their job.”
When multiple cops have been accused of the very serious crime of bribing witnesses and obstructing prosecutions, we need to take Kauha‘aha‘a’s advice seriously. We’re way beyond Arakawa’s “bad apples” view of discipline. It’s time to call in the FBI and get an outside, unbiased look at what’s going on inside the Maui Police Department. At this point, that’s the only way we can hold the MPD accountable.
Chase Keliipaakaua’s booking photo courtesy Maui Police Department