Maui Police Chief Pelletier highlights first 60 days in office, says morale is good
By Wendy Osher
Maui Police Chief highlights first 60 days on the job
Maui Police Chief John Pelletier discussed his first 60 days in office during Wednesday’s regularly scheduled Police Commission meeting, summarizing what is being done, and the upcoming plans he has for the department.
In his report, Chief Pelletier provided a list that included plans in progress for a staffing study, creation of protocols for major case investigations, strategies for recruitment, and a review of the department’s budget and equipment.
“In 61 days, we picked an executive staff. We went through [and] we put the right people in place. I would say that MPD has the most diverse, competent police staff in the State of Hawai’i, as far as an executive police team,” said Chief Pelletier.
“Our business administrator Melissa Magonigle, our PIO Alana Pico, our Chief of Staff Christina Bonacorsi… we have two acting assistant chiefs in Esperanza and [Gregg] Okamoto, and we have a retiring assistant chief [Clyde] Holokai. Between the Deputy and myself, I feel like we’ve got a team together that can help implement the change necessary to move the agency forward.”
According to Chief Pelletier, the executive team has studied the department’s shifts and schedules, and notes that there is still one district that is on a 12 hour shift. “Documented studies have shown that that’s not safe, so we’re going to get ourselves off of that. We’re going to use the intelligence led policing that I mentioned last month to get us there,” he said.
The department has a staffing study in progress to figure out what types of service calls are being made and what areas are in need of coverage.
“We’ve established recruiting strategies and a plan–that’s in progress. We’ve put together our council–that’s collateral duties from a cross section of the department, so that we can do everything we can to recruit, develop, and train people now and for the future,” said Chief Pelletier.
Under the new administration, the Multi-Cultural Advisory Counsel or MMAC was formed to build bridges of communication, understanding, trust, and transparency between the community and the department. Chief Pelletier said the group will support conversation between members of the community that feel either disenfranchised or oppressed.
The Chief is also establishing a community talk story program. “We are establishing MPD’s First Tuesday, but at no point did we ever want to just recreate the Ninth Island and put it here. MPD–I’ve said this before–should be second to none, this County should be second to none–and instead of just rebranding and calling it First Tuesday, we’re going to call our community event ‘Let’s Talk Story,'” said Chief Pelletier.
The fist of these sessions was conducted on Friday on the Island of Lānaʻi with a conversation that took place over the course of an hour and 20 minutes. “That template is what we’re going to do to build,” said Chief Pelletier, noting that a more solid schedule will be developed as COVID-19 cases decrease and more normalcy returns to gatherings.
Under the budget and equipment review, the Chief said there are grants under review for ‘Tac vehicles’ in the various districts. “These would be vehicles equipped with shields, with no lethal weapons so that we can deescalate situations, particularly bean bag rounds. We’re looking to make sure that we have the tools available to the men and women who are out there pushing blue and white patrol vehicles so that they have everything to help resolve a situation with the least amount of force necessary,” said Chief Pelletier.
Highlights of the first 60 days include the following:
- Command staff and selection
- Reviewed shift and schedule D1
- Staffing study in progress
- Established recruitment strategies / plan in progress
- Established MMAC – had two meetings
- Establishing MPD First Tuesday “Lets Talk Story” in progress.
- Reviewed department budget.
- Reviewed facilities and equipment
- Establish options for police equipment (on and off duty)
- Shortened Police Academy ( added CIT)
- Creating Lateral Academy (in progress)
- Creating and developing Major Case Protocol
- Creating and developing MPD Incident Action Plan
- Created and Structure to the Executive Staff Briefing
- Created C4 District meetings
- DV working group (LE, DA, advocates)
- All districts have been visited by the Office of the Chief
Chief says morale is good
During the meeting, Commissioner Emmett Rodrigues raised the question of morale and promotions within the department, citing the amount officers retiring and the lack of a captain on Molokaʻi.
Chief Pelletier responded saying a job posting was made for the assistant chief position in the rural district of Hāna in East Maui. “To answer your question, we are going to promote… We’re doing a staffing study to see exactly what we need… Molokaʻi will be receiving leadership. I’d like to see them getting both a lieutenant and a captain,” said Chief Pelletier.
“We do have a captain that is in the FBI and we just had the captain that was assigned to leave on the first of this month. So I can’t promote for something while they’re still on the books. I wanted to make sure that we had a legitimate chance to see what are we dealing with, and try to be as efficient as possible in order to do that,” said Chief Pelletier.
“I can’t promote certain positions unless I have assistant chiefs and acting assistant chiefs. So I’ve got to make assistant chiefs before I can make captains,” said Pelletier. “Everyone wants to say that I made the 25% shortage. I didn’t make the 25% shortage. Everybody knew that. Whether it was vocalized or not, it should have been–this is what the projected loss is. But there is no captain list, no assistant chief list. We have to get that mechanism first,” said Chief Pelletier.
The issue of morale comes following last week’s salary commission meeting in which retirees with more than 25 years in Maui Police Department rallied to speak out against a proposed 29% pay hike for the department’s new chief. Commissioners noted that neither the commission nor the chief initiated discussions on salary.
On the topic of morale, Chief Pelletier said he has gotten emails, and comments from people who have commended him for his work to date.
“I’m not saying this to say it, but I went Thursday night after working the whole shift and then I did a ride-along until 11 o’clock at night. I did that because I wanted to see what the folks were doing. The deputy has done that as well on different times… but when you’re out there and actually with the men and women doing the job and seeing the work they’re doing, they are doing incredible,” said Chief Pelletier.
He continued saying, “Just like the outpouring of the community has been incredibly positive–100%. Do I think that you’ll never get 100% of the people to embrace something? Yeah,” said Chief Pelletier.
“I think that the men and women of this agency are absolutely some of the finest cops on the planet. I think that this community is something that’s special–that unless you’re really here and know about it, you just don’t quite understand how incredible it is. And this agency is doing a great job. And I think the folks that are here are doing a great job. And so, if you were to ask me: ‘What do I really think?’ I think the morale is good, and I would be very aware of the work that’s being done,” said Chief Pelletier.
He pointed to the Recruiting Council saying it’s made up of volunteers. “Volunteering to do extra work on top of what they do–they came together to do that, and they built a plan, and they put together a plan that didn’t exist,” said Chief Pelletier. “Motivated cops are productive cops. Motivated cops are happy cops. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to make their job easier,” he said.
He also noted that the department reduced going to miscellaneous accident calls in Districts 1, 4 and 6. “If you already have an ambulance and fire going to a call where (this is how it was relayed to me) somebody falls down the stairs–that’s not a police call. I didn’t do it for the outlying areas because an officer may be the first one there–that’s just the way it is. But there’s no reason to have fire and medical and the police,” said Chief Pelletier, saying efforts are being made to “maximize being more effective.”
“What I hear to my face is folks really appreciate the direction that we’re going. That’s the best barometer. And literally, I have people stopping in every day and say that they appreciate the work, and they appreciate what we’re doing. I think it’s phenomenal how much outpouring there is on that,” he said.