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Police chief finalists tackle tough questions

Inclusivity, community relations in queries of final 5 candidates; decision set Tuesday

Police Commission Chairman Frank De Rego asks questions of police chief candidates Friday. — The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

From coordinating the response to a mass shooting to overseeing construction of the Kihei Police Station, to improving morale despite staff shortages and seeing youth grow to serve their community, the five finalists to be Maui police chief gave a variety of answers when asked Friday to name their “greatest single achievement.”

The question was one of 15 posed to Everett Ferreira, Larry Hudson, John Jakubczak, John Pelletier and Victor Ramos during a Maui Police Commission interview, which was held in open public session.

Except for Commissioner Matthew Mano, who appeared by videoconference from Lanai, the commissioners and the finalists met in a room at the University of Hawaii Maui College. The meeting was aired online and on Akaku Maui Community Media.

Pelletier, a captain and bureau commander of Major Violator/Narcotics for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, noted that Friday was the fourth anniversary of the “One October” mass shooting in 2017, which he said was the “biggest crime scene second only to 9/11.”

Fifty-eight people were killed and 850 were injured in the shooting during the outdoor Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas strip.

Police chief finalists answer questions during an open session interview with the Maui Police Commission at the University of Hawaii Maui College. — The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

After getting a call at home about an active shooter, Pelletier said he was “out the door within minutes.”

“I knew I had to take incident command,” he said. “It was imperative because we had an incredible loss of life.”

The response that night “took years to build,” Pelletier said.

“I’m very humbled,” he said. “I know I helped save lives. I know I’ve helped the community.”

Assistant Chief Ramos, who now heads the Investigative Services Bureau, said his greatest achievement came when he was promoted to assistant chief and headed the Uniformed Services Bureau composed of hundreds of officers.

Ramos

“We were able to forge a unifying bureau to the point where morale, despite the manpower issues, was high,” he said. “Everybody had the same mindset. Everybody came to work to do the best job they could.”

Patrol officers would investigate cases so thoroughly that they were completed when they were passed on to detectives, Ramos said.

“Part of that success was discipline,” he said. “In discipline, there is freedom.”

With lieutenants, sergeants and officers sharing the same vision, Ramos said community members noticed “things are different.”

Wailuku Patrol Capt. Ferreira cited his community activities coaching football, including Pop Warner.

Ferreira

“The greatest enjoyment was seeing one of your players who came from a broken home, by encouraging and coaching, just to see him come out a better citizen — going to college and coming back home and giving back to my community,” Ferreira said.

Hudson, who retired as an assistant chief eight years ago after a 33-year police career, said his contributions to the department include the opening of the $37 million Kihei Police Station in 2013 and development of the police forensic facility, as well as implementing the transition from revolvers to semiautomatic pistols and the first body armor for officers.

“My greatest success to the department is kind of thankless,” he said. “Whenever I see an officer, I can see my contributions with the body armor, with the firearms, when you see the Kihei station, when you see the morgue. Many of my contributions to the department, while they’re constantly used, there is no thanks.”

Assistant Chief Jakubczak, who heads the Uniformed Services Bureau, cited his work with the state E911 board that has helped modernize technology and allow people to send emergency texts to 911.

“It’s allowed us to reach out and help assist many people, not just in the county but in the state,” he said.

Hudson

Jakubczak, who also coaches high school football, said his biggest personal accomplishment has been seeing some of those young men become police officers.

“I hope and I pray that I had some type of inspiration to motivate them to serve their community as a police officer, including my son, including my nephew, who dedicate their life to serve in this community,” he said. “That’s my biggest proud moment.”

Building bridges

The finalists also were asked how they would “go about building bridges to address sensitive cultural or racial issues,” given the state’s “diverse multicultural, multiethnic population and the fact that it used to be a sovereign kingdom.”

Pelletier said police need to “make sure everybody feel they will have equal protection under the law.”

Jakubczak

Ramos cited his Hawaiian and Filipino ethnicity, saying, “I have those relationships.”

He said he is part of a group of Hawaiian men who meet “with the idea of making the Hawaiian man better.” Group members who are good friends were at a 2015 protest that police responded to, Ramos said.

“They understood we had a job to do, but we did it fairly,” he said. “We were on opposite sides. It gets really rough at times. It comes back to communication and developing trust.”

Ferreira said he is from a family that “stood up for their rights” in the mid-1970s when a hotel was being built in Makena.

“As an officer that took the oath to uphold the law, I will do the job I was assigned to do,” he said. “As you get older you learn how to listen and understand why some people are upset.”

Hudson, whose grandmother came to Hawaii on a boat from the Azores, said he is half Portuguese and his children are Hawaiian, Japanese, Portuguese and Caucasian.

Jakubczak said his family roots are in Puunene in the plantation days. “Everyone got together, it was a community,” he said. “The doors were open. You’re not related to everyone but you are.

“Recently, there’s a renaissance of younger local people who are recognizing their history as Hawaiian people.”

He said his father-in-law is a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha.

Jakubczak said he has proposed at least one day of cultural diversity training as part of the police recruit academy for those who aren’t from the state and “have no idea what being raised in Hawaii is about.”

Officer inclusivity

Another question asked of the finalists was: “Some employees feel that there are two groups within the department — those who are in and those who are out. The out group feels that the in group receives prime consideration for training, special assignments, promotions and that they have management’s ear. The out group feels that if they are critical of management or supervision, they are unfairly disciplined and their input into departmental operations is not wanted. What has been your experience of in and out groups within your department and what have you done to remedy the situation?”

Hudson said the groups were referred to as cliques when he was in the department.

“I retired eight years ago. There’s nobody left in my clique,” he said. “I would come in fresh. My deputy would not be a current sitting police officer from within the department.

“We have to control cliques so the people don’t feel they’re downtrodden.”

Jakubczak said he had experienced feeling “like I was in the out group.”

“I’m not sure if that was the reality,” he said. “A lot of times you take what you perceive to be happening and you listen to others who probably don’t have your best interests.”

He said he has tried to address the issue by including officers from Molokai, Lanai or Hana in training opportunities.

He said “communication, open dialog and problem-solving” would address the division.

Pelletier said he would “reboot this entire department.”

He said he would to go to each division and ask what they were doing right, what they were doing wrong and how they could improve.

Ramos said the promotion system has been proven to be fair.

He said it was important to meet with officers to prevent miscommunication.

“If you have worked hard and have earned the privilege to go to training, you should go, absolutely,” he said.

Ferreira said he would talk with officers if there was an issue. Training opportunities are “based on evaluation and their passion,” he said.

Transparency and secrecy

Asked how they would balance transparency and secrecy in the department’s relationship to the public and how they would expedite publishing general orders online, the candidates said they support transparency except for tactical information that could jeopardize officers’ safety.

Hudson said he would meet with the public, meet with officers and meet weekly with the media. If a question couldn’t be answered, he would explain why, he said.

“We want to be transparent as fully as we can given the circumstances,” Jakubczak said.

“Transparency is definitely needed because it builds trust with the public,” Ramos said.

If they were selected to be chief, the finalists said an extensive background check wouldn’t reveal any significant negatives.

“You’ve heard from a few people that disagreed with my management style,” Ramos said. “My intent is to make the officer better. Why? Because a better officer provides better service to the community.”

The meeting Friday lasted nearly five hours, with the candidates taking turns in answering each question in a rotating order.

The commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday to select the police chief. The meeting will be online at bluejeans.com/436492036.

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

Pelletier

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