MPD – A Chance for Change Being Bungled

Maui Police Department, despite many outstanding officers, has a past of bad administration that has gotten the department in hot water with the courts. It looks like the Police Commission has no taste for changing this.

When Chief Gary Yabuta retired  July 30, 2014, residents were optimistic that the Police Commission would appoint an educated chief dedicated to cleaning up the corruption in the department.  Corruption and bad judgement that includes:

  • Using police funds and personnel to lobby citizens against legalizing marijuana. (Ironically Yabuta announced he’d be taking a job as Director of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) for Hawaii upon retirement from MPD)
  • Creating a policy (successfully overthrown by the courts) prohibiting sign holding by protestors. In fact, the Deputy Chief who created the policy violating the First Amendment right of demonstrators is in the running for Chief.
  • Putting an alleged sexual harasser in charge of the Sexual Harassment Policy.
  • Allegedly assaulting and arresting Maui Time publisher Tommy Russo for videoing police.
  • Using excessive force in a drug bust to the wrong house.
  • Covering up disciplinary actions against officers
  • Attempting to squelch the First Amendment right of a County employee discussing an officer
  • Not recognizing that one of their officers was running a scam and on meth
  • Allowing officer Nelson Johnson to run wild for years (including killing a car thief) before finally firing him
  • Losing in court over restricting a right to hand out religious pamphlets on the sidewalk (a double whammy on the First Amendment)
  • Being sued for age discrimination. (This was someone with a college degree — apparently this counts against applicants possibly even more than age.)
  • Arming themselves with a military assault vehicle.
  • Dropping the ball on a near-fatal attack at Paia Beach Park allegedly because it involved a relative of a high ranking MPD member.
  • Maui Police Department officer Lewis Gamble sexually assaulted a member of the public
  • Ryan Masada, an 18-year police veteran arrested for dealing meth.
  • Covering up a serious of killings including ignoring the young man who, they say, “accidentally walked over a cliff” during a Polipoli rave despite the physician who saw him saying his face had been “kicked in”.  This was after another incident near Pawela Lighthouse where a young person was “accidentally” run over and killed during a similar rave.
  • Officer Kristopher Galon plead guilty in U.S. District Court to stealing money during a traffic stop and extorting sex from a woman.
  • Officer Steven Gunderson, plead guilty to charges of theft and evidence tampering on this.
  • Officer James Mateaki was involved in a meth import ring, used MPD resources to strong arm debt collection by the drug dealer.

Hopes were high that the new police chief would clean house and make MPD a safer place both for the officers who fear retribution for reporting irregularities and for the public who is concerned about bias in the department.

Hopefully the Maui public will show up at the Maui Police Commission Meeting 9:30am August 20 at the police building in Wailuku to ask these questions:

  • Are there any police chief candidates with college degrees being considered?
  • If not, doesn’t Maui deserve better than a high school graduate running our police department?
  • Is one of the candidates for police chief behind all the MPD violations of people’s First Amendment rights who landed the county in a lawsuit (which we lost)?
  • If so, why hasn’t he been eliminated?
  • Are the candidates free of  sexual harassment allegations?
  • If not why hasn’t that candidate been eliminated?
  • What are the candidates’ stands on marijuana? Can we get someone who concentrates on REAL crimes instead of a #ReeferMadness



2 thoughts on “MPD – A Chance for Change Being Bungled”

  1. This article has shaken loose a lot of pent-up concern about MPD and the Police Commission that is supposed to oversee them. The Commission appears to more as a rubber stamp and booster club for MPD than an oversight body.

    There is no doubt that MPD has some serious problems that include sexual harassment, bullying, and a culture of retribution for any officer who speaks out about these things.

    Sources are disgusted with a process of choosing the new chief that they say was “wired from before Chief Yabuta announced his retirement.”

    Communication and accountability to the public is insufficient.

    With a lopsided 8 men on the 9 person Police Commission, the few qualified women save one were eliminated in the first round.

    This leaves a slate of 5 men and 1 woman candidates remaining.

    The numbers alone tell a sad tale about fairness and equality all down the line.

    Sources tell us that the entire selection process is a sham and that Clayton Tom was the choice from the beginning.

    Perhaps this blog may cause the Police Commission to rethink this and give Moana Heu (the sole woman) or Tivoli Faaumu (who sources say is “fair” and may change the culture of bullying and retribution) a true evaluation.

    Faaumu has reportedly done a good job running the Kihei division.

    Heu is not so well known, having worked on Oahu before her retirement.

    The Police Commission could change the culture of retribution and bullying by this decision. Will they take their job seriously and do so?


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