Chief ‘didn’t know’ he hit parked motorcycle
Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said he didn’t know he hit a parked motorcycle when he backed his pickup truck out of a parking space at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, then drove away.
A few hours later on Nov. 7, after the motorcycle owner discovered the damage, reviewed security footage and called police, a police lieutenant contacted Faaumu to ask if he knew his truck had hit and damaged the motorcycle.
“I said, ‘No, I didn’t know I damaged the motorcycle or hit anything,’ “ Faaumu said Wednesday. “I said, ‘I’m sorry that that happened.’
“If I knew I did back up into the motorcycle and caused damage, I would stop. But I didn’t.”
Surveillance video of the truck hitting the motorcycle was posted early Wednesday on YouTube with the title “Maui Police Department — Chief of Police — Hit and Run.” By Wednesday evening, the video had been viewed nearly 3,000 times.
Faaumu said he had expected the video to surface after he received an anonymous letter on Monday saying a copy of the video would be sent to media. The letter also said that if he didn’t retire by the end of the year, a letter would be sent to the Maui County Council, Police Commission, mayor, State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers and media outlets calling for an investigation into Faaumu’s behavior toward employees.
He said he believes the typed letter, which was mailed and had no return address, is from an MPD employee, based on its contents. “As the chief you make decisions, you discipline people and some people are not happy,” Faaumu said.
The motorcycle was hit around 1:15 p.m. Nov. 7.
Rodel Jose, a sergeant and site supervisor for security at the mall, said he had parked his 2019 Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a stall on the ground level of the parking structure near Macy’s before he started work that day.
He was making rounds in the parking lot around 5 p.m. when he noticed the motorcycle was tilted and its rear fender was damaged. After getting the assistant director of security to review surveillance footage, Jose called police.
Officers arrived and were given the truck license plate number, which was captured in the video.
“The weird part is they didn’t tell me who exactly was responsible,” Jose said. “When they ran the license plate number, they were very hush-hush about it. They pulled each other aside.”
A couple of days later, he had contact with an officer who picked up a copy of the surveillance video and “still didn’t give no clue as to who ended up damaging it,” Jose said.
“It’s just very recently I found out it was the chief,” Jose said Wednesday.
He said that when police have responded to similar cases at the shopping center and checked on license plates of vehicles, “for the most part, they let us know who it is.”
Jose said the surveillance video seems to show that Faaumu and his passenger knew the truck hit the motorcycle.
“You can see both of them looking back and kind of discussing, but none of the parties came out of the vehicle,” Jose said. “You can see both of the parties looking toward where my bike was. They just chose not to inform MPD.”
He said Faaumu also didn’t leave a note with information or notify mall security.
“Being that he is the chief of police, he should know better,” Jose said. “The only thing at this point is he should just come forward and admit he was in the wrong and he should own up to his mistake. Regardless of his position, do the right thing.”
Jose said the truck occupants should have been able to feel the impact.
The impact shown on the video occurs after a glitch causes the video to briefly freeze.
Faaumu said he didn’t feel his truck hitting the motorcycle or bouncing before he stepped on the brakes, put the truck in gear and moved forward.
When the video shows Faaumu looking in the driver’s side mirror as he’s leaving the parking lot, he said he was looking at the parked cars.
“It was just a normal habit, because my truck is longer than the average, to make sure that I don’t cut the corner too close,” he said. “I didn’t know that there was a motorcycle in the back there.”
Jose said he’s waiting for his insurance company to do an estimate of the damage, which he believes is less than $3,000.
While he can still ride the motorcycle, “I don’t know if it affected the frame,” Jose said. “There are times when I am riding it feels off. It’s no longer the same.”
Police classified the case as a minor motor vehicle collision.
Faaumu said that because it happened on private property, such a collision is normally handled as a civil matter.
“That’s the call of the commander in the field,” he said. “I did not influence him.”
Faaumu said it’s standard police procedure for a lieutenant to take over when police personnel are involved in a case.
“What I did was, instead of trying to play the chief’s role, provided the information like any other citizen,” he said. “That’s what I did, what the officers did.”
After being told his truck had hit the motorcycle, Faaumu said he inspected the truck and saw a small gouge mark in plastic on the top of the bumper near the license plate. He said he provided his insurance policy number for the police report and contacted his insurance company, then the deputy police chief to let him know.
“This whole thing can be nothing if it was just somebody else,” Faaumu said. “I wish it never happened, but it happened. I provided all the information when I was notified of it. We’re not covering up. The lieutenant in charge did his job, what he was supposed to do.”
In a news release, police said that if further investigation is warranted, it will be done.
Faaumu said he “made a commitment to the mayor” to continue as chief while the department works on developing policies for the pandemic. He said some officers see the value of special COVID-19 duties such as mask enforcement, while some “say that’s not a police job.”
Faaumu said the message in the anonymous letter giving him a “retirement deadline” at the end of the year “is almost like extortion.”
“As the chief, you have enemies outside and even inside. It’s expected,” Faaumu said. “I want to at least let the public know that there are a lot of good people in the department. There’s a few that don’t agree with the chief, which is 1 percent, but the 99 percent are good people doing everything they need to do to bring us back to normal.”
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.