A volunteer panel of Maui police commissioners is getting ready to select a new police chief to lead the state’s third-largest law enforcement agency.
Maui County law requires candidates to have a minimum of five years experience in law enforcement, with at least three years in an administrative capacity. But the island’s police commission wants more.
The commissioners are looking for someone with at least 15 years experience as a police officer, including five years in administration. The commissioners also prefer someone with a four-year degree from an accredited university and proof of training from the FBI Academy, or equivalent experience.
The nine-member commission began advertising for the position in early June, and applications are due by July 12.
The new police chief — who will earn $158,851 a year — will replace Tivoli Faaumu, who retired on May 1 after 35 years with the department. Deputy Police Chief Dean Rickard is leading the department in the interim.
“This is a very important position,” the commission’s chairman, Frank De Rego, said during a March meeting to kick off the search process. “We want to make the right choice, because it’s in our hands.”
The search comes as Oahu’s police commission also is recruiting a new police chief after Susan Ballard retired on June 1. However, the selection processes are playing out much differently.
The Honolulu Police Commission will largely rely on a consultant and advisory committee led by a police chief on the mainland.
On the Valley Isle, the entire process is being overseen by the committee of police commissioners, which includes De Rego, Michael Redeker, Janet Kuwahara and Emmett Rodrigues.
De Rego did not respond to an interview request left with the commission on Tuesday.
The four commissioners are responsible for scoring applications and narrowing down the applicants to a shortlist of five who will be interviewed by the whole commission.
During the last search in 2014, the Maui Police Commission required all applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in police administration, law enforcement, criminal justice, political science, business administration, sociology or a related field. If not, they had to prove they graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.
In March, De Rego argued in favor of keeping the bachelor’s degree requirements since they are becoming standard around the country.
But the commissioners decided not to make those education requirements mandatory after hearing pushback from several Maui police captains concerned that doing so would limit the pool of potential candidates.
“Some of law enforcement’s best, who have dedicated themselves to this difficult profession, do not have degrees,” Capt. Wade Maeda wrote in a letter to the commission. “We have people in the Maui Police Department with years of executive level experience that do not have a degree. A four-year bachelor’s degree is nowhere near the substitution for four years at MPD’s executive level.”
The advertisement for the police chief position says the commission is seeking, but not requiring, those higher education and FBI-training requirements.
New this year, the commission may require the top five police chief applicants to take a written exam.
The commission is scheduled to discuss the written exam and possible interview questions for the top five candidates at a meeting on June 29. That meeting was originally scheduled for June 16 but was canceled because of technical issues that prevented the public from watching it.
Much of the process is in line with the 2014 search that put Faaumu in the job. The volunteer commission at that time advertised for the position, vetted applications, narrowed candidates and selected its new chief in just five months.
Police chiefs previously had to have lived in the state for at least one year, but that state law was lifted in 2017.
Roger Dixon, a retired police officer and former chair of the commission who led the selection process in 2014, expects nationwide interest in the new position.
He said the commission previously judged applicants in categories such as years of service, management and leadership skills, training and education, and knowledge of laws and policies.
Dixon also anticipated that the top candidates will face a battery of questions from the commissioners, and will be presented with scenarios and exercises to evaluate their approaches.
Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino, through a spokesperson, declined to weigh in on the police chief search.
Maui County Council Chairwoman Alice Lee said she wants to see a police chief who is “open, honest, fair, objective, creative, collaborative and maintains good communications with his department personnel and with the public.”
Lee also wants the new chief to address retention issues in the department.
Dixon, a retired Seattle police lieutenant, said public transparency will also be a major issue facing Maui and other police departments around the country. The commission should also emphasize community relations as it did in 2014, according to Dixon.
“Having been an old-time cop, if you don’t have buy-in and acceptance from the community, you don’t have much of an agency,” he said.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell