Faaumu choice of those in ranks – union official

KAHULUI – Kihei police Capt. Tivoli Faaumu is the top choice to be the next police chief among Maui County police officers who want to see change, a police union official said Wednesday.

Maui police Detective Barry Aoki, speaking as Maui Chapter chairman of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, said Faaumu was the only one of the six finalists for the top Maui Police Department job who “has reached out to SHOPO for input – asking us what kind of issues and concerns our members have of the department.”

Aoki was among more than a dozen people who spoke Wednesday morning during the public testimony portion of a special Maui Police Commission meeting in the Elleair Rainbow Room at the Maui Beach Hotel.

While the union is not endorsing a candidate, Aoki said, in response to a question from commission Chairman Roger Dixon, “the leading candidate amongst our members is current Capt. Tivo Faaumu.”

The six candidates for chief were to be interviewed Wednesday and today by the nine-member commission, meeting in closed-door session to discuss personnel matters. After the interviews conclude this afternoon, the commission will deliberate, Dixon said.

A simple majority vote is needed to select the new chief, he said. As chairman, Dixon said he would vote only if there’s a tie.

The commission is choosing a police chief to replace Gary Yabuta, who retired July 31.

In addition to Faaumu, a 29-year MPD veteran and commander of the Kihei Patrol District for the past three years, the finalists are:

* Acting Chief Clayton Tom, a 32-year MPD veteran who had been deputy chief under Yabuta.

* Assistant Chief Victor Ramos, a 25-year MPD veteran who heads the Uniformed Services Bureau.

* Larry Hudson, who retired from MPD last year after 33 years, the last three as assistant chief of the Support Services Bureau.

* Moana Heu, who retired in 2013 as a major after nearly 30 years with the Honolulu Police Department. She was chief of logistics for HPD during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2011.

* Chuck Tsang, chief of security at the University of Hawaii Maui College. He moved to Maui last year after retiring as a lieutenant from the New York Police Department.

At the meeting Wednesday, Aoki said he was speaking on behalf of SHOPO, which represents more than 300 police officers in the county.

“Our members are varied in their preferences for the next chief,” Aoki said. “However, they have made it clear their desire for change and do not want business as usual. We are looking for a leader, someone who will move the department forward by applying the mission statement to the community as well as to the officers of the department.”

MPD’s mission statement is to serve the community through integrity, compassion, fairness and service, according to the county website.

“This person needs to be able to reconnect with the front-line officers working on the streets,” Aoki said. “The members also want a leader who can reach out to the community – someone who can connect and engage with them and can successfully restore what some believe is lost credibility and faith in the department.”

MPD was criticized by some in the community this year for the police investigations into the disappearances of Moreira “Mo” Monsalve and Carly “Charli” Scott. Neither woman has been found.

After the investigation into Scott’s disappearance was reclassified to a homicide, her ex-boyfriend Steven Capobianco was indicted on a charge of second-degree murder and is awaiting trial.

As for candidates who are former police officers, Aoki said, “We thank them for their service. We hope they enjoy their retirement.”

During public testimony Wednesday, residents offered support for various candidates.

Hudson’s mother, Audrey Rocha Reed; former police commissioner Mark Redeker; retired police Lt. Darrell Johnson; and criminal defense attorneys William Sloper and Andrew Martin cited Hudson’s work in overseeing development of new Lanai and Kihei police stations and a county forensic facility and morgue.

“Larry is someone I trust,” Sloper said. “This is coming from someone who has to challenge the police in how they do their jobs on a daily basis.”

Rocha Reed said Hudson was the youngest police officer in Maui history when he started work at MPD at age 18 and was responsible for MPD becoming accredited.

Another former police commissioner, Ron Vaught, supported Faaumu as having the leadership skills to have the Police Department interact with the community.

“He is just ensconced in his community,” Vaught said. “You talk to anybody in Kihei, and they love him.”

Juli Patao, a UH-MC faculty member, described Faaumu as a “collaborator” and “a caring person and willing to hear sides of the story before drawing conclusions.”

“He’s not machoistic,” she said. “Even though he has the size and he’s a cop, he’s very calm and peaceful.”

Mary Wagner, who previously worked at MPD for more than 15 years and had applied for the police chief job, said Faaumu “by far is the best” of the four finalists from MPD.

Carolyn Onaga, a retired HPD metropolitan police lieutenant, supported Heu.

“She’s a proven leader,” Onaga said. “She’s a visionary. She’s very well-respected by her peers, subordinates, everyone in the community. She’s a team player.

“She is an agent of change.”

Retired MPD Capt. Charles Hirata supported both Heu and Ramos. “The applicant must be fair in dealing with the public and employees as well,” Hirata said. “The right choice will not only have to lead, but they will have to inspire and take MPD into the future.”

Blossom Feiteira, who has been involved in Hawaiian community issues, said she believes that Tom is the most qualified of the candidates to be police chief.

After being repeatedly told by police officials that they couldn’t have demonstrations opposing attempts to dismantle Hawaiian programs, Feiteira said Tom – then a detective – stepped up to find a solution.

“Not once did he say, ‘No, you can’t do it,’ ” Feiteira said. “It led to several successful demonstrations across the island,” including one at Kahului Airport.

“He also brings to the table a very strong and a deep-seated understanding of the community he serves,” Feiteira said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at