Chief: Body camera video showed MPD officers acted by the book with protesters

From 25 to 30 officers were equipped with body-worn cameras during Aug. 2 incident with telescope convoy

Some police officers responding to protesters trying to block a wide load of telescope parts headed up Haleakala wore body cameras like the officer shown. The convoy reached the protesters in the early morning of Aug. 2 on Haleakala Highway fronting King Kekaulike High School. • The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

KAHULUI — A preliminary review of police body camera footage during a protest against a convoy of telescope materials headed to the Haleakala summit shows officers followed procedures and acted properly, Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said Wednesday.

The Police Department spent more than $35,000 in premium pay for officers assigned to the operation from the evening of Aug. 1 to the early morning of Aug. 2, he said.

About 80 people had gathered at the triangle outside King Kekaulike High School starting at about 6 p.m. Aug. 1. When trucks carrying telescope parts reached the area at about 3:45 a.m. Aug. 2, about 10 protesters chained their wrists together in tubes and blocked Haleakala Highway.

Police arrested six people, including a 39-year-old man who “suddenly appeared to become unconscious” after struggling with officers who had removed him from under the trailer of a truck, police said.

“As we review the videos and also the body-worn camera footage, I want to reassure this body that we followed every procedure and training that we have,” Faaumu said at a Maui Police Commission meeting Wednesday at the University of Hawaii Maui College. “I feel comfortable with the outcome. If there is any future feedback or litigation as a result of what we do, I believe we have followed every procedure.”

Faaumu said officers with the police Specialized Emergency Enforcement Detail were equipped with body cameras during the operation.

Police are in the process of reviewing the body camera footage, he said.

“As we review it, we learned our officers were acting appropriately,” Faaumu said.

Assistant Chief John Jakubczak, who heads the Uniformed Services Bureau and was incident commander for the operation, said body cameras were worn by 25 to 30 officers.

“The video footage we have reviewed thus far indicates the officers did a great job and did appropriate steps in this process,” Jakubczak said.

“They did a great job of being professional and being patient and doing their job, ensuring everyone is safe — not only the protesters but the convoy itself,” Jakubczak said.

He said Sgt. Joy Medeiros, who helped put together the MPD body camera program, is among officers involved in reviewing the footage.

“A lot of footage has to be downloaded first,” Jakubczak said.

About 60 officers from the Maui Police Department, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement and Haleakala National Park were part of the operation.

Faaumu said it was “a very sensitive task” for police officers assigned to the operation because of the people involved in the protest.

“All they want is to exercise their First Amendment right,” Faaumu said. “They are not the criminal elements of the community, just good citizens. They’re involved in sports activities, the same sports activities some of our officers are involved with. It was tough.”

He thanked community members for their support, “even those that were out there protesting.”

“The dialog we had with the protesters and some of the community was positive,” Faaumu said. “Some were very passionate about their belief and their practice.”

He said police wouldn’t release video from the operation unless it is approved by the Department of the Corporation Counsel.

Commissioner Larry Feinberg said police “did a great job” in handling the protest.

“They gave those people as much leniency as they could when they laid down in the middle of the road and blocked traffic,” Feinberg said. “And then they finally came in and properly lifted them up and moved them away. If they used force in any way, it is because the protesters were resisting.

“I really commend everybody and the force,” Feinberg said. “You did a proper job.”

Feinberg also asked about a report that it took about 20 minutes for an ambulance to reach the scene after the protester appeared to become unconscious. Feinberg asked why an ambulance wasn’t already on scene.

“Having an ambulance there could send the wrong message that we were looking at having injuries,” Jakubczak said. “We were trying to downplay or minimize that type of message. We’re not there to have anyone injured.

“We would love to go through that whole incident and not have anyone hurt. Obviously, it was going that route until circumstances dictated we had to call for an ambulance.”

Faaumu said a tactical dispatcher was assigned to respond only to officers involved in the operation.

After the man appeared to become unconscious, officers guided him to the ground and immediately radioed for an ambulance as a precaution, police said.

“I’m not sure from that point on why the ambulance wasn’t there a little sooner,” Jakubczak said. “We did reach out very soon.”

Paramedics transported the man to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he was evaluated and released into police custody, police said. He and others arrested were booked and released on their own recognizance.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

COMMENTS