Sally Kaye: Maui Police Officers Are Talking Story On Lanai - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Sally Kaye

Sally Kaye is a resident of Lanai, an editor and former prosecutor. Opinions are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Civil Beat.

Editor’s note: Longtime Lanai resident Sally Kaye will be contributing occasional columns about her island home, Maui County and state issues.

There are only two main streets in Lanai City – Lanai and Fraser avenues — and the electronic billboards were hard to miss.

For the month of March, Women’s History Month, uplifting messages – “Just Believe,” “Don’t Be Afraid,” “Be A Hero,” “Never Look Back” — clearly meant for the ladies on Lanai and placed on the roadways by the Maui Police Department, greeted every driver and pedestrian, 24/7.

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This was new. I’d not seen such signage since the last hurricane warning, so I decided to head over to one of the talk-story sessions MPD has been offering every month since August, 2021.

“The Lanai Talk-Story session was an idea I thought could be beneficial as a new lieutenant in the district,” said Lt. Joy Medeiros, who’s been with the department for over 16 years, and posted to Lanai for almost a year.

She said she was often asked about her plans when she first arrived and realized, “I needed to get to know the community and understand their needs, and the only way to do that was to speak directly to the people I aim to serve.”

The intent, she said, was “to change this predisposition that the police department was something to be avoided. I wanted the community to know and feel that this was a safe space.”

When I asked whether she thought “Let’s Talk!” was a success, she said “If just one person felt comfortable enough to come forward, express their concern, find their answer, or simply be heard, then the program was successful indeed.”

Although they started on Lanai, talk-story hours are now offered on Molokai and in Hana as well, with plans to expand to other locations on Maui.

MPD Lt. Joy Medeiros Maui Police

“This is a fairly new idea for the department as a whole and one that Chief (John) Pelletier is implementing county-wide,” Medeiros said. “The Lanai community is where the idea was born and now we’ll be able to share it with the county as a whole.”

When Medeiros leaves Lanai, she will be tasked with improving recruitment for the department. She said that “the cliché may be overused but its message still rings true, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’”

So for her, recruitment “starts by creating a positive presence in the community and actively helping interested people begin their new journey — whether it be preparing for this new career, getting through recruit school, or successfully navigating their way through this life of service.”

Who You Gonna Call?

Lanai’s loss may be Maui’s gain when Medeiros relocates in May, but the district will be in the very capable hands of Sgt. Kimberly Masse, who’s been with the department for over 21 years and will take over as acting lieutenant.

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I’ve only had a few occasions to call the police for help, notably when two young, not-too-bright workers tried to steal our Jeep from in front of our house, and when several trespassers climbed our mango tree and stole the only mangoes the tree produced in over 40 years (it’s usually too cold for mangoes to fruit at 1,600 feet).

On both occasions Masse responded. Her description of how she processed the would-be Jeep thieves was classic police procedure, and I learned from Masse and a fellow officer that theft of agricultural products can be a felony. Who knew? We never saw any of the perpetrators again.

Both Lt. Medeiros and Sgt. Masse identified “non-reporting” as the biggest challenge they face in addressing and preventing crime, so improving relationships between officers and the public should help communicate the importance of “If you see something, say something” in Maui County.  Especially in light of the fact that calls for service for domestic violence incidents on Lanai increased from 65 in 2019 to 84 in 2021, according to Lanai’s volunteer DV Task Force, consistent with statewide statistics during the pandemic.

Medeiros thinks that, “For whatever reason, there would be times where we weren’t being called upon to help. We’re here to serve and to protect and it can be difficult to do that when things aren’t brought to our attention. It’s my hope going forward that people feel confident that their concerns will be addressed. Police involvement plays a crucial role in creating an environment that breaks the culture of silence.”

MPD Sgt. Kimberly Masse Maui Police

Masse agreed: “People will exercise their right to not report and just say things after the fact,” she said, and there are times when “we get third-party information that can’t be used to document a report.”

Then there are times when individuals making a report “either purposefully or accidentally reveal a past incident” which can’t be acted upon.

While both Medeiros and Masse said domestic violence was a top concern over the past year, Masse added that claims of harassment “by family members, neighbors and acquaintances” increased as well.

And both Masse and Medeiros identified rooster noise as one of the most common community complaints they heard during talk-story times, which Medeiros characterized as “definitely frustrating.”

“It’s essentially out of our hands,” she said, “because it’s not a crime to have roosters.”

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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About the Author

Sally Kaye

Sally Kaye is a resident of Lanai, an editor and former prosecutor. Opinions are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Civil Beat.

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