To the future chief of the Maui Police Department
With the exception of one candidate, I once carried the badge of honor with all of you. I pray each one of you has the intense desire, radical work ethic and passion to create and implement an invigorated vision. You must outperform all of your predecessors.
Understanding that many years have passed since my service, I speak with an open heart. Radical sacrifice is demanded in the position you seek.
Society in all of its complexity demands police agencies continuously refund and recycle (not defund and reimagine) with the strong moral foundations which make any solid organization tick. A key component of a democracy is a trusted police department whose people are well-oiled with wisdom and who are fully funded, free of cost, with character and integrity.
Some virtues cannot be taught, they must be modeled, they cannot be learned, they must be practiced. You must be that model. The greatest line item in your budget is your peace officers, your underappreciated and underpaid emergency services dispatchers and your precious civilian support staff.
Your journey begins with an honest self-assessment. The cruelest of all prisons is a person who desires to be a leader but does not have a grasp of reality regarding his actual leadership abilities. That folly does not end well. Promotions with $1.99 bars or stars do not lead to new epiphanies of wisdom or work ethic.
Managers are a dime a dozen. Leaders are a rare and precious coin. Leaders are detected by their track record of prior actual accomplishments within the organization. Some can manage projects, few can really lead people. Even fewer can do both. What are you? What are your creative accomplishments and implementations that have benefited your people and/or our community?
Maui County’s people have always desired a chief of police who has the character and creative depth to be a transforming influence. One who is instinctive, iconoclastic, can buck do-nothing buzz word trends, is counterintuitive, challenges fashion and pomp and contemporary unquestioned presuppositions.
On rare occasions, this person emerges at a time of despondency when morale is low, fear looms and weary hearts are failing. Police departments cannot afford to function in a state of mediocrity, nor fall prey to leaderless and lazy chiefs with commanders who operate in a state of feebleness. Our laws are the moral code of conduct in a society. We are the Jedi of that code.
We must be the most apolitical branch of government navigating through a minefield of political, social and cultural trends, faddish or enduring, prudent or impractical of which many decry our positions, actions and initiatives. You must be more artful than scientific, more universal than territorial.
Elevate your people and your organization to a new apogee. Average is failure. Ideas are meaningless without implementation. The best technology and equipment in the world is ineffectual without the shield of compassion, integrity and character behind it.
Words like “transparency” become worthless if you do not live the example of integrity for your people. You must be strong, but not rude, kind but not weak, bold but not a bully, thoughtful but not lazy, humble but not timid, proud but not arrogant.
Soon, one of you will begin to serve an excellent but exhausted and seriously undermanned civilian and sworn staff, a work force that has been challenged in the past few years by a global pandemic, an irrational defund police ideology, a quick judgment society, social media frenzy, a growing transient population, homelessness, ongoing drug and opiate abuse, poverty, a pandemic of selfishness that wafts as a foul fog in the air, where judgment comes before facts, entitlement thinking is honorable, integrity is selective and a panoply of more Monday morning quarterbacks than 20 breakfast joints filled with retirees.
Your primary sidearm is the dignified and powerful cloak of unselfishness, motivated by radical service and sacrifice with the desire for excellence and a 12- to 16-hour workday. Clear your calendar for your people’s excellence. Focus 200 percent on your people and your community. Average is failure. Failure is not an option.
* Kekuhaupio Akana was a police officer for 25 years and retired as deputy chief of the Maui County Police Department in 2006.