Maui Police Department to equip officers with protective gear after wildfire

June 14, 2024

MPD’s equipment shortcomings revealed in Lahaina wildfire report

The Maui Police Department (MPD) has acknowledged significant gaps in officer safety during the recent Lahaina wildfire, as reported by Hawaii News Now.

According to a preliminary after-action report, many officers lacked essential protective equipment.

This issue is now being addressed, but there is no timeline for when the necessary gear will be distributed.

One key recommendation from the report is the creation of “go bags” containing personal protective equipment (PPE) for future emergencies.

Body camera footage from August 8 showed the severe impact of smoke on officers, highlighting the urgent need for proper masks.

Union urges swift action on protective equipment

Dustin DeRollo, a spokesperson for the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), expressed frustration over the delay: “Our expectation is that given that this is a known problem, that it would have been solved by now.”

MPD Assistant Chief Gregg Okamoto stated that the department is still determining the specific supplies needed for these “go bags”.

He noted: “We continue to review the multitude of equipment that the go bags may contain.”

Okamoto also mentioned that the department cannot purchase the equipment until the new budget is finalized and funding is confirmed.

MPD is requesting $108,500 for the go bags and other protective items.

Budget constraints and calls for urgency

DeRollo emphasized the urgency of equipping officers before the peak of the fire season: “Why are we waiting?”

He criticized the lack of prioritization in the current budget, suggesting that more effort should be made to secure the necessary gear.

DeRollo compared this situation to MPD Chief John Pelletier’s recent push for a helicopter program, arguing that the same level of commitment should be applied to fire safety equipment.

Assistant Chief Okamoto responded to these concerns, stating that the fiscal year 2025 budget had been submitted months ago.

He added that if funds are available in the current fiscal year 2024 budget, they will be used instead of seeking contingency funding.

Previous failures in officer safety

The union pointed out that this is not the first instance of MPD failing to provide adequate respiratory protection.

After a fire in 2018 that destroyed nearly two dozen homes, complaints were filed with Hawaii’s Occupational Safety and Health Division regarding the lack of proper equipment for officers.

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