By David Kvasnicka
Update: a correction has been made regarding Nelson Johnson in this article. We apologize for the error.
The Maui Police Department says it has been re-accredited for the fifth time by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
CALEA was created in 1979 as a credentialing authority through the joint efforts of law enforcement’s major executive associations. The main objective of CALEA is to establish professional standards across law enforcement agencies worldwide. Accreditation is a voluntary process, which the MPD has undertaken for the past 18 years. The MPD was the first department in Hawaii to be accredited.
In attendance at CALEA’s July 27-30 conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, was Police Chief Gary Yabuta, Deputy Chief Clayton Tom, Lt. Bradley Rezentes, Lt. Ricky Uedoi, and Lt. Jeral Pladera. The MPD’s accreditation was renewed for another three years, with “Meritorious” distinction, say police.
The accreditation process involved an on-site review of the MPD at the end of April. Assessors praised the department and said that it was professionally managed, highly motivated, well-trained and committed to excellence.
“We hope accreditation will change some people’s opinion of the Maui Police,” says Police Commissioner Ron Vaught. Vaught is in his second term on the Maui Police Commission, serving for seven years.
Asked about the reasons for Maui Police’s perception problem amongst some in the community, Vaught said that the behavior of a few unfairly tainted the entire department. He also said that police officers are “human beings” and are susceptible to responding in kind to hostility like anyone else, particularly if they were “having a bad day.”
On April 12, Maui police officer Nelson Johnson was captured on video allegedly striking the publisher of Maui Time, Tommy Russo. According to Russo, he called police after being assaulted by Sonny Westbrook, a crew member for the Dog the Bounty Hunter television show. Johnson then also assaulted Russo. The incident is still under investigation, Maui police do not concede of any assault by Johnson at this stage, and no action has been taken against officer Johnson. Johnson is still on active duty. It was previously reported that Johnson was placed on administrative leave, however Maui police confirm this is not the case.
During the on-site CALEA assessment in April, the MPD hosted representatives from the Hawaii County Police Department, Kauai Police Department, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, who are all in various stages of the accreditation process.
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