Maui Mayor Weighs in On Police Chief Selection Criteria

August 18, 2014, 1:10 PM HST · Updated August 18, 1:49 PM
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Unveiling and Retiring of Flag Ceremony for Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Photos by Wendy Osher.

Unveiling and Retiring of Flag Ceremony for Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Photos by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The Maui Police Commission continues work to narrow the field of applicants, following an Aug. 12 application deadline for the department’s top job.

“It stands to reason that there are going to be a lot of people that are interested in that position,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa in an exclusive interview with Maui Now today.

With Chief Gary Yabuta retiring at the end of last month, and an annual salary of $135,000,  Mayor Arakawa said the applicant pool would be a very competitive one.

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“Even though it’s a tough job, there are a lot of people that will be interested in it that were past police officers, current police officers, from outside of the state, (and those) that are within the state,” said Arakawa.

The position will also attract applicants because of the work the department has done to secure accreditation, said Mayor Arakawa.

“It’s one of the finer police stations. It has more facilities than most police throughout the nation and we’ve got a lot of good equipment. People want to be able to work with some of the best and working with the Maui Police Department, they’ll be working with a very fine organization and the proof is the accreditation,” he said.

The Maui Police Department was the first in the state to earn accreditation in 1996, and has since been re-accredited six times by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The most recent re-accreditation was confirmed following an on-site review held earlier this year in April.

“It’s got another three years of accreditation, so it stands to reason that a lot of people are interested,” said Mayor Arakawa.

According to the application, the chief candidates must be a citizen of the US, and have 15 years of experience as a law enforcement officer — at least five of which were in the administrative capacity.

While the Police Commission identified several parameters in selecting the new chief, Mayor Arakawa said one characteristic that he hoped the new chief would possess is that of cooperation.

“The police department is fully autonomous from the county operations, so the chief has to be someone that’s going to be very cooperative with the administration so we can work together on issues like funding. If there are public concerns, we need to be able to talk and we need to be able to look at how we’re going to be able to approach safety and police work within the community,” said Arakawa.

Arakawa said both Yabuta, and Tom Phillips before him were cooperative leaders. “They understood that this was a team, and that we had to operate as a team; and they made every possible opportunity to be able to work together happen.”

“We won’t interfere with the day to day police work, but we do have to look at how we’re going to be able to fund special units, how we’ll be able to make sure that the equipment that they have is modernized,” said Arakawa who noted that the county collaborates with the department on the kind of equipment that the department invests in.

“For instance now we’re looking at a motorcycle brigade again, police officers having tazers or different kinds of weapons, the vehicles that they’re driving, what should be involved in the vehicles … trying to be able to locate houses by finding better ways to get addresses permanent so emergency vehicles can find them. A lot of these kinds of things need to be worked on,” said Arakawa.

Arakawa said some traditional issues that any chief will encounter include staffing of anti-drug and anti-gang programs, identifying crime areas and ensuring coverage, and minimizing any threat or public disturbance.

“Whenever there’s any kind of natural public disaster that may happen, we have to be able to coordinate having police out there to protect the community. During these major storms, we had police officers on almost every corner making sure that traffic flows smoothly and that anyone in that vicinity who may need help gets that help. They even go door-to-door to make sure that a lot of the people in the coastal areas have evacuated properly. It takes a lot of coordination, and depending on the circumstance, how intense the coordination has to be,” said Mayor Arakawa.

“We need a police chief that is willing to work with us,” he said.

The Maui Police Commission’s next meeting is scheduled to take place this Wednesday, Aug. 20, in Wailuku.

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