The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers will be under new leadership beginning next year following the police union’s election, which concluded last week.

Robert Cavaco, the union’s current vice president, beat out Don Faumuina, the current secretary, to become the next SHOPO president after voting ended on Dec. 9. He will take the seat of Malcolm Lutu whose four-year term as president ends at the end of the month.

Cavaco, a lieutenant who has spent 21 years in the Honolulu Police Department’s Traffic Division and 19 years as a SHOPO official, ran on a platform of lowering union dues, taking a more cautious approach to political endorsements and increasing pay for officers across the state through contract negotiations.

The union’s president-elect referred all question’s to current-President Lutu until he is sworn into office on Jan. 1, 2022, but outlined what he planned to do if elected during an interview on the Hawaii Real Podcast last month.

State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) located at 1717 Hoe Street.
The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers have elected new leadership to take office at the end of the month. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Lutu did not respond to Civil Beat’s requests for comment.

Cavaco began the interview by saying that he wants to look at lowering the union’s dues from $80 per month, citing the “excellent health” of SHOPO’s finances, which includes nearly $11 million in assets.

“I guess the whole idea behind this is giving back to the membership,” Cavaco said. “Because, even if we can only do it for a year or two, we’re in a pandemic — some of our members, their spouses lost their jobs. We only have one source of income. So if we can give back just a little bit here it’s going to go a long way to the members that now they’re paying less dues but still receiving the same benefits.”

Robert Cavaco
Robert Cavaco was elected to be the next president of the state’s police union after serving as vice president. SHOPO

Cavaco went on to say that the union should be more cautious about contributing to political candidates. He pointed to SHOPO’s endorsement of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven Alm, who made headlines in June after he charged three HPD officers in connection with the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap despite a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers.

The union, which has just under 2,700 members, donated $4,000 to Alm’s campaign in December 2019.

“I think the board needs to look at a different strategy,” Cavaco said. “I think a better strategy would be we vet the candidate, make the endorsement, but we don’t donate to their political campaign until they prove that they’re with us. And then once we see they’re with us, then we’ll go ahead and donate to their political campaign.”

Cavaco was joined on the podcast by a host of SHOPO board candidates who were also running for office, including his brother Shawn Cavaco, John Asing, Stephen Keogh and Derek Pa, all of whom ended up being elected to SHOPO’s state board.

Asing, a 29-year police veteran in Honolulu who is currently a lieutenant in communications, won the election for SHOPO secretary, beating out Zelda Cabudol, a detective with the Criminal Investigation Division who works with the Domestic Violence Detail.

Keogh, a sergeant with 14 years at HPD, was elected treasurer over current Director at Large Jason Boquer-Wintjen.

Derek Pa and Shawn Cavaco were both elected to be directors at large alongside Carmel Hurley.

David Hallums, a current director at large at the union, will be the new SHOPO vice president starting next year and was the only newly-elected member of the state board to run unopposed.

All newly-elected SHOPO State Board members either did not respond to Civil Beat’s requests for interviews or declined to comment.

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