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4-year college degree won’t be required for next chief

Commission will still seek candidates with higher education

WAILUKU — While the Maui Police Commission will seek candidates who have a bachelor’s degree or other higher education in selecting the next police chief, a four-year college degree won’t be a requirement to apply for the job.

“We’re seeking that requirement, but it’s not necessary,” Chairman Frank De Rego said as the commission discussed the hiring of a new police chief at its meeting Wednesday.

The new chief would replace Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu, who is retiring May 1 after more than 35 years with the Maui Police Department.

The five commissioners who attended the meeting by videoconference Wednesday voted to adopt minimum requirements set by the County Charter for the police chief job. Those requirements include being a U.S. citizen and having five years of experience in law enforcement, including at least three years in an administrative capacity.

Commissioners agreed to seek, but not require, applicants who have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university, or who have graduated from the FBI National Academy or who have equivalent training.

“Just because the commission is seeking certain applicants doesn’t mean other people can’t apply,” De Rego said. “It does not preclude other people from applying.”

The commission discussion followed testimony from more than a dozen people about the hiring of a new chief.

While some supported having a chief with a college degree, Molokai resident Zhan Lindo said she opposed such a requirement.

“For places like Molokai, the textbook doesn’t work,” said Lindo, who described herself as a community advocate for emergency services. “The Native Hawaiian law is something that should be offered throughout the department.

“Most importantly, we need to hire a police chief that has integrity and courage.”

She said there was “value in hiring a police chief that has experience in the ranks.”

Maui resident Tiare Lawrence said requiring the chief to have a master’s degree would “disenfranchise” many local officers and attract out-of-state applicants.

“I would like someone with experience in community engagement, somebody who has experience in our local community and leadership qualities,” she said.

Commissioner Janet Kuwahara noted the mixed opinions among those who testified.

“They wanted education, yet they wanted someone from Hawaii who knows the way of Hawaiian culture,” she said.

She referred to written testimony, including letters from three current Maui Police Department captains, saying a four-year college degree wasn’t required to be a successful chief.

“I have to agree,” Kuwahara said. “I hate to see ourselves put in a corner where we get really good applicants and they may not have a degree but they shine on everything.”

Commissioner Mark Redeker said he didn’t “want to lose out on a potentially good candidate . . . simply because they do not have that four-year degree.”

Although the Police Department will reimburse officers for enrolling in courses to obtain associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, commissioner Emmett Rodrigues said officers still would “have to sacrifice” to obtain degrees while working overtime and having families.

Faaumu, who has a master’s degree in homeland security, said that as chief, he works closely with civilian employees who are required to have college degrees for their jobs. He said that during the pandemic, “education carried me through.”

In letters to the commission, MPD Capt. Ricky Uedoi and Capt. Scott Migita said they hoped the next police chief would be selected from within the Police Department.

In deciding on the process for selecting a new chief, the commission voted Wednesday to generally follow procedures used in 2014 when Faaumu was selected to replace retired Chief Gary Yabuta.

A temporary investigative group made up of De Rego, Redeker, Kuwahara and Rodrigues will review and score applicants and determine the five final candidates to be interviewed by the full commission. The temporary group also will determine when notice of recruitment for the job will be published in newspapers and online.

The application period would close 45 days after the first publication of the notice.

The job as administrative head of the department pays $158,000 a year.

Three commissioners were excused for the meeting Wednesday. One position on the commission is vacant.

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

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