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Maui Police Commission declines to investigate chief following complaints

FILE - John Pelletier at a Maui Police Commission meeting in 2021.
Maui Police Commission
FILE - John Pelletier at a Maui Police Commission meeting in 2021.

The Maui Police Commission will not seek disciplinary action against Chief John Pelletier, following a rocky few months.

At a Wednesday meeting, Commission Chair Frank DeRego said third-party investigations did not sustain allegations from two sworn officers and one civilian worker.

“The investigations concluded that two of the complaints were not substantiated by the evidence,” DeRego said following a several-hour long executive session. “The third complaint was not substantiated to all grounds with the exception of an incident involving raised voices and unprofessional language.”

This represents just three of several complaints alleging a hostile work environment and mistreatment of employees within the department.

In response, DeRego reported that Pelletier is receiving coaching on his management style.

“After carefully considering the investigative reports including all interviews and documentary evidence, the commission voted to file the complaints and not initiate disciplinary action,” DeRego said. “The commission's annual review of the chief's performance will include a review of the executive coaching program and its results.”

Pelletier was hired in December 2021. About four months into his tenure, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers publicized a climate assessment detailing low morale highly critical of the new chief’s leadership.

SHOPO Maui Chapter Chair Nick Krau said the union will continue to monitor what’s happening.

“SHOPO is not a party to any of the complaints filed against Chief Pelletier or members of his command staff, as such, we do not know the outcome of the investigations or the information the Commission evaluated to render its decisions,” Krau said in an emailed statement. “Multiple complaints remain under active investigation, and we expect those complaints to be taken seriously, investigated fully, and decided fairly based upon the available evidence. SHOPO will continue to monitor this process to ensure that any of our members who filed a complaint, or who decide to utilize an appeal process, are not retaliated against for exercising their rights as employees.”

Keisa Liu, the co-vice president of the MPD's MultiCultural Advisory council, says MPD’s issues run deeper.

“I'm here again to voice the same thing I've been saying for over a year now. We need an outside objective lens to deal with the many issues of workplace culture within the department,” Liu said. “For instance, the issue of using terms like hostile work environment, mistreatment of employees and then retaliation to manipulate decision makers into choosing reactive paths to ‘justice’ at the expense of our officers and the public, which is old hat to the old boy network.”

MPD declined to make a statement Wednesday.

Sabrina Bodon was Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter.
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