New Maui Police Chief Officially On Board
December 15, 2021, 4:18 PM HST
* Updated December 16, 9:27 PM
New Maui Police Chief, John Pelletier was sworn in alongside new Deputy Police Chief Charles Hank III during a blessing and badge pinning ceremony held this morning at the Wailuku Police Station.
“I feel humbled, number one, to be in this position. I’m definitely very happy that we got to where we had to go in two months and two days. I was announced as the final candidate, had to sell my house, retire from my other job, find a house, withdraw the kids from school, get the kids in a school, pack and ship everything we had–and you figure there’s a few holidays in there–so it was rather a lot. But it’s a modicum of issues compared to some of the challenges and opportunities that we have,” said Pelletier in an interview with Maui Now.
“The outpouring of the community that came, the cross-section is just incredible. I’m feeling overwhelmed and extremely blessed,” said Chief Pelletier.
In an unspoken gesture, Chief Pelletier requested that Maui resident, Kimberlyn Scott sit among the new administration during the swearing in ceremony. Scott is an advocate for families who are searching for missing persons after her own daughter, Carly “Charli” Scott, went missing in 2014.
“I really feel like the minorities that have been downplayed or kind of left to their own devices in years past under previous administrations–this administration hears us. That’s what I’m coming away from this with. We will be speaking loudly… we’re going to be speaking for the victims, the families, the homeless, the missing, and drawing as much attention to that as we possibly can with this chief. I do feel that we will be heard,” said Kimberlyn.
“I thought it was appropriate. It symbolized the larger community, especially those who are experiencing particular distress,” said Maui Police Commission Chair Frank De Rego, Jr. “I think it’s symbolic of a larger motivation for this particular chief in terms of how he wants the community to be involved every step along the way.”
“I’m confident that the Commission made the right choice under the circumstances, in terms of looking at the future of the department and what the community was asking for,” said De Rego. “I think we had to balance those things. We had five excellent candidates, but we finally decided that for these particular circumstances, and for our community to move forward within the department and within the community, that Chief Pelletier was the best choice.”
Chair De Rego said the Commission wants Chief Pelletier to first get acquainted with the department, but at the same time, start making plans for the future.
“One of the first expectations… is developing a Strategic Plan,” said De Rego, saying he wants something that’s detailed with milestones and benchmarks, as well as accountability. “The first thing is ramping up to seeing what his plans are and moving into the future.
Chair De Rego said he’d also like to work toward developing a more open and collaborative evaluation process than what is currently in place right now.
Chief Pelletier said one of his first moves is to create the Maui PD Multicultural Advisory Council, “which is where we get the chance to have a cross section of the community, and maybe community members that feel disenfranchised or not listened-to, and actually speak to the Deputy and myself… We can hear directly from them on different challenges, barriers, and things like that–so that we can create lōkahi, so we can actually really be unified. That is a priority, so much so, that I started to put those wheels in motion even before today,” he said.
Pelletier already laid out budget priority requests, which include the establishment of a dedicated civilian recruiter; creation of a part time cold case team; and creation of a patrol K-9 program.
Recognizing that department staffing is down by approximately 20%, Chief Pelletier proposed the hypothetical question: “If you cut off 20% of your body, how functional are you?”
“I don’t want to take a cop off the street to go do a job that they maybe don’t have the background (or) training to do. Let’s get a professional to do that,” Chief Pelletier said of his request for a full time recruiting director and assistant recruiting director.
As for the K-9 program, Chief Pelletier said it will help to augment the department shortage. “It does two things: It helps with the patrol function and the search function, but it also helps us with recruiting and gives us an ability to strengthen some of our numbers without adding personnel… because I’m not going to be able to get the personnel as quickly as I could get a program like that going.”
In addressing the department directly, Chief Pelletier thanked members for their service saying, “Please know this: I will do everything in my power each and every day to make sure you have everything you need, that you are safe, (and) that you are protected. I will make sure I am your voice when you need it. I will hold you when you need it. I will be there to comfort, to guide you, to protect you, to help you. I will never ever ask you to do anything I will not do myself. I will go to the gates of hell and kick the devil in the teeth with you. God bless you for all that you do.”
“We will continue to build on an 80 year tradition and make this not just a model agency for state, but a best-practice for the nation. Five score and five years ago, Queen Liliʻuokalani said, ‘The way to lose any earthy kingdom is to be inflexible, intolerant, and prejudicial. Another way is to be too flexible, tolerant of too many wrongs, and without judgement at all. It is a razor’s edge. It is the width of a blade of pili grass.’ It is with that in mind, that this kuleana will keep moving forward no matter what,” said Chief Pelletier.
Pelletier has served the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for the past 22 years in numerous capacities. He oversaw the K-9 and SWAT units and served as commander of the Convention Center Area Command, which is responsible for the Las Vegas “strip.”
In 2017, Pelletier notably served as the incident commander for the One October mass casualty event in Las Vegas. His Deputy Chief selection, Hank, was also part of the command for the incident and provided after-action presentations across the country on preventing, responding to, and mitigating similar active shooter events.
Pelletier earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1994 and is a 2019 FBI National Academy graduate.
He and his wife Cristy are the parents of 13-year-old twins.
Deputy Chief Hank worked more than 30 years in law enforcement with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, where he was part of the executive staff leadership. Hank is credited with leading the implementation of recommendations for the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He also led implementation of recommendations following the Collaborative Reform Process, which reviewed officer-involved shootings in the LVMPD.
According to Pelletier, Hank offers “highly specialized knowledge” and training that he said will be a “tremendous asset” to the MPD, the County of Maui, and the State of Hawaiʻi.