The Sunshine Blog: Where Were Maui Police During The Fires? We'll Find Out Eventually - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

Short takes, outtakes, our takes and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

Response time: Let’s hope we don’t have to wait two years to get the official version of what Maui police officers were doing on Aug. 8 in Lahaina, but Police Chief John Pelletier put that out there during a presentation to the Maui Police Commission last week.

What the commission saw was a preview of an internal “after action review” that Pelletier says is underway on the department’s response. 

Over 4,500 emergency calls and texts were made to Maui police Aug. 8, almost three times the normal daily volume, according to the department. The Sunshine Blog can only imagine how many calls there would have been made had Lahaina town still had cell service.

The commission was told a preliminary report would be available in two to three months, which feels more appropriate given all the questions that have been raised about roadblocks, traffic chaos and what residents were told and when. 

Maui Police Sgt. Chase Bell presented information to the Maui Police Commission on Wednesday. (Screenshot/Hawaii News Now)

AARs have a military pedigree dating back to the 1970s and have become a standard response to a crisis for corporations like Microsoft and Boeing as well as for government agencies. 

Complex technical investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board into aircraft crashes can take up to two years, but more typically a year. They also release a preliminary finding usually within a few days of the incident.

A 200-page AAR of the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles County that killed three people but involved the evacuation of 250,000 residents on Nov. 8, 2018, was released a little over a year later. 

The report for the massively destructive California Camp Fire took a little longer — around 18 months. 

Both of these were completed by outside consultants and not by an internal working group, as is the case with MPD, which raises another issue: We do know police are good at investigating, but less robust at investigating themselves. 

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And after action reviews can actually be counterproductive.

A recent Harvard Business Review column by people who run AARs sounded this warning: “The truth is, most AARs are ineffective. Instead of producing a deep and honest analysis of error and oversight, they are reduced to a pro forma exercise. Leaders use them to duck accountability and cover up mistakes. Inconvenient opinions are ignored or silenced. Hard conversations and painful reflection are avoided.”

Traditional AARs strenuously avoid laying blame to promote inclusiveness, but that can enable some individuals to evade responsibility, they said. 

The authors, one of whom is a senior team leader for the FBI’s Miami SWAT team, recommend that to avoid this pitfall organizations should spend 75% of their time on the “What Happened” part of the AAR process. “Reconstruct the whole narrative of the event, slowly and completely, as everyone remembers it. This will excavate the deeper causes of good results and bad.”

Why should there be more urgency from the MPD? Because in the absence of information misinformation fills the void, and in the new reality organizations cannot wait out two more Hawaii summers to make adjustments to their procedures and responses to wildfires. 

No news is bad news: Live news programming on KITV 4 Island News has been off the air for the past few days, even though there’s no official explanation has been offered.

What’s the deal?

Jason Hagiwara, the station’s president and GM, said Friday that his team is working through “some tech issues” and promises regular news production should return “soon.”

KITV is still posting news to its website, and other broadcasting continues on KITV and sister station KIKU, which features Japanese and Filipino TV programming.

Akana v. Ethics: Former Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Rowena Akana is still appealing a Hawaii State Ethics Commission ruling in 2019 that determined she had committed 47 violations of the State Ethics Code.

OHA Chair Rowena Akana. 4 jan 2017
Rowena Akana. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017)

The case arose from the trustee’s acceptance “of prohibited gifts, failure to file gifts disclosure statements, and use of her Trustee Allowance to pay for her home cable television service, political donations, and food for herself and staff, among other things,” the commission said at the time.

Akana, who lost reelection in 2018, was penalized $23,106 but has been appealing the matter. She is challenging the commission’s authority over OHA, a quasi-state agency.

The civil case was on the commission’s agenda last week but, since there have been no updates in the case, there was no action taken.

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

Read this next:

Chad Blair: Is Aug. 8 The New Dec. 7 For Hawaii?

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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

Maybe the Feds can come in and "complete" the investigation. After all, they're putting up substantial bailout monies...

bestwestern · 2 months ago

Thanks to Civil Beat for at least giving us a report on the situation at KITV4.When there is no news, it is usually bad news so will be listening and watching to see what happens next

marilynlee · 2 months ago

I'm really confused about whether or not there were roadblocks by MPD during the Lahaina fire.In the early days, MPD said they absolutely did not have roadblocks More recently, there were words from MPD about roadblocks because driving over downed (live) power lines can kill you. I don't think that's accurate for cars with rubber tires.AND HECO told us their lines were de-energized. (We haven't been told whether it was due to power being turned off or equipment failure.) Don't get me wrong: please assume any down power line is live.Lots of people report roadblocks and MPD turning them back.Do MPD vehicles have locator beacons? How about MPD officers? Certainly, the dispatch logs and radio communications are stored preserved !) and might be obtained via FOIA.We can plainly see HECO preparing for bankruptcy, but that isn't an admission of guilt. It just reflects knowing (of) the PGE story.MPD roadblocks and traffic control: still a mystery.One last plea: don't rebuild in the same shantytown construction. Learn from Cali and use fire-resistant and defensible space techniques.Our hearts go out to those impacted.

E_lectric · 2 months ago

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