Another Maui cop arrested for allegedly bribing a witness
[This story has been updated to include Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu’s Oct. 22 video message to the public.]
Another week has passed, and that means another Maui police officer has been arrested for some form of criminal behavior. If ever the Federal Bureau of Investigation began investigating the Maui police, it is now. In fact, the situation is so bad that the Maui Police Chief himself, Tivoli Faaumu, recorded a video message on October 22 at 1:29 (click here to see it posted on MauiWatch). While this is a good gesture and is clearly intended to reassure the public, it actually strengthens the perception that something is terribly wrong with the department.
“I want to assure the public that faculty misdemeanors such as corruption will not be tolerated,” says Faaumu in a message that strangely opens and ends with almost whimsical music. “Any employee who violates the law will be held liable, both criminal and internally.”
What prompted Faaumu to note was the following press release, sent by his department on October 21:
10/21/15 around 09:00 Chase K. Keliipaakaua (29), of Kihei, was arrested for the crime of witness bribery and obstruction of first degree prosecution. Keliipaakaua was a sworn police officer in the Maui Police Department with approximately 6 years of service. He was released pending further investigation. In addition, an administrative inquiry was initiated and assigned to office duties.
Although the e-mail containing the press release stated that “no other information” [was] available ”, information about the arrest of Keliipaakau was attached to a previous press release sent earlier this month regarding the arrest of Maui policeman Anthony Maldonado for second-degree theft (he was later re-arrested for bribing a witness and obstructing prosecution, only as Keliipaakaua).
In the past six months, the number of Maui police officers arrested for alleged crimes has risen to four. In addition to Keliipaakau and Maldonado (who at least had the decency to smile like the brother in the booking photo), MPD arrested Officer Rachel Garvin for allegedly drunk driving in late May, and Officer John Solomon in June for driving too. under the influence and (supposedly) behind nine allegations of indecent exposure in Pukalani (Solomon was also arrested in June in Newport Beach, California for allegedly drinking in public places).
Yes, I know there are more than 470 people working in the Maui Police Department. And, as Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa noted in his “Ask the mayor” column in June, “problem workers can be found everywhere.”
But I also know – and almost everyone on Maui knows – that the Maui Police Department is “no place to work.” Maui cops carry weapons and badges that allow them to use this weapon – to use lethal force – on members of the public deemed to be threats. Maui police officers have access to military-style weapons, training, and a giant armored truck known as the Bearcat.
We often talk about keeping the police “on a higher level” – about the expectation that they will act like the guardians of the rule of law which (at least in theory) they are. The thing about these arrests is not that they are a tiny fraction of the overall force, but that they happen at all. When it comes to law enforcement, one criminal officer tears the entire department away.
“Hold them [the police] responsible, ”MPD retired cop Lawrence Kauha’aha told Wailuk residents and merchants at the Maui Reconstruction Agency meeting on October 20 on the new“ security ambassador ”program. “They know their job.”
When many cops have been charged with the very serious crime of bribing witnesses and obstructing prosecution, we must take Kauha’ah’s advice seriously. We are far beyond Arakawa’s view of “bad apples” discipline. Time to call the FBI and get an unbiased outside view of what is happening in the Maui Police Department. At this point, that’s the only way we can hold MPD accountable.
Chase Keliipaakaua booking photo courtesy of the Maui Police Department