East Hawaii News

‘I Don’t Want to Place Another Name on That Wall’: Ceremony Pays Tribute to Fallen Police Officers

By Nathan Christophel
May 16, 2022, 3:06 PM HST
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Family members of Officer Bronson Kaimana Kaliloa, who was killed in the line of duty in 2018, light a candle in his honor Monday, May 16, during the Hawai‘i Police Department’s National Police Week ceremony at the Hilo police station. (Photos by Nathan Christophel)

“Today, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

It was with those words that Officer Amy Omaya opened the Hawai‘i Police Department’s National Police Week ceremony Monday, May 16, at the Hilo police department. The event served not only as the first of several activities this week in support of police work, it also paid tribute to several Big Island police officers who died in the line of duty.

Photographs of the officers who have died in the line of duty sit on a table Monday next to the “Ka Malu Aloha” police memorial wall outside the Hilo police station.

‘Ohana of those fallen officers, county and police officials and members of the public attended the ceremony. Family members of each of the officers being remembered also lit candles in their honor — their photos sat behind a candle on a table placed in front of the “Ka Malu Aloha” police memorial wall outside the Hilo station.

The officers who died while in service to their community and who are forever memorialized on the wall are:

  • Officer Manuel Cadinha, who gave his life in 1918.
  • Officer William “Red” Oili, who gave his life in 1936.
  • Officer Ronald “Shige” Jitchaku, who gave his life in 1990.
  • Officer Kenneth Keliipio, who gave his life in 1997.
  • Officer Bronson Kaimana Kaliloa, who was killed July 18, 2018, in the line of duty.

Park Ranger Steve Makuakane-Jarrell, who gave his life in 1999, was also remembered during the ceremony.

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“I like to think that these brave men didn’t have their lives taken as much as they laid it down for all of us,” police Chaplain Renee Godoy said during her invocation for the ceremony. “They were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice when called upon so that their families, friends and loved ones would be able to live in a safe community.”

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She said from the most recent officer to lose his life to the most distant — a 100-year span — their memories remain fresh in the hearts of their fellow officers and their loved ones.

Mayor Mitch Roth speaks during Monday’s ceremony at the Hilo police station.

“It is important that all citizens recognize and understand the duties, responsibilities, hazards and sacrifices that their law enforcement officers,” Mayor Mitch Roth said, reading from a proclamation he made for National Police Week.

In the proclamation, Roth also calls upon all residents of Hawai’i County to not only honor the memory of those fallen officers, but extend a “heartfelt mahalo to all law enforcement personnel for their dedicated service to our community.”

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“I want to thank the men and women of the Hawai‘i County Police Department for all they do to ensure our freedoms here in the County of Hawai‘i,” Roth said.

Police Chief Paul Ferreira said that the nation saw a 49% increase in the number of law enforcement professionals who died while performing their duties last year, making 2021 the deadliest year for law enforcement with 617 fatalities. The increase was partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a spike in traffic fatalities.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit dedicated to honoring the nation’s fallen officers, there have been 105 line-of-duty deaths so far this year as of Monday morning, the chief said, 55 of which were related to COVID.

“During our ceremony here today, we want to pay tribute and remember the five members of the Hawai‘i Police Department that lost their lives while serving to make Hawai‘i a better place to live,” Ferreira said before listing their names and also remembering Makuakane-Jarrell.

He said National Police Week is also a time to recognize the courage of the men and women throughout the nation who continue to serve and protect their communities selflessly as law enforcement officers, especially throughout the past two years during the pandemic as they stood on the front lines as first responders, joining fire department personnel, nurses, doctors and National Guard members, keeping their communities safe.

“I want to personally thank and recognize all of the men and women of the Hawai‘i Police Department, both sworn and civilian, both current and previous to our department, who have dedicated their lives in ensuring the safety of this community,” the chief said in his closing remarks.

Police Chaplain Lorin Carmichael asked in his benediction prayer for protection for law enforcement personnel.

“Lord, we want to remember all the men and women in blue and all other law enforcement officers as well,” Carmichael prayed. “That you protect them, that you guide them.”

He asked for them to be watched over while in service to their community and the fight against crime, making the Big Island a safer and better place to live.

“We rest all of that into Your hands for the safe keeping of tomorrow and the future ahead,” Carmichael prayed.

President John F. Kennedy in 1962 proclaimed May 15 as the annual Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week the date falls in as National Police Week. This year, Police Week in Hawai‘i County is being observed from Monday through Friday, May 20.

Jay Jitchaku, the son of Ronald “Shige” Jitchaku, one of the fallen officers honored during Monday’s ceremony, thinks Police Week should be perpetuated for the next generation to remember those officers who gave their lives for their community. His father being remembered during a Police Week ceremony touches his heart.

“It’s important for the community to recognize the work the officers do out there,” Ferreira said after Monday’s ceremony. “So many times all we hear is the negativity of law enforcement across the nation. Fortunately for us here in Hawai‘i, it hasn’t been as much as you see all across the nation. We have a strong support from the community.”

He said it’s times like Monday’s ceremony that highlight the fact that some officers have died protecting their community and that officers put their lives on the line every single day.

“We’ve had too many near misses, where officers have been shot at, they’ve been attacked, and I don’t want to place another name on that wall in my lifetime,” Ferreira said.

He added that, unfortunately, the memorial wall exists, but it gives police and the public the chance to remember those fallen officers no matter how long ago they died.

“We must always keep them in our memories and keep them in our hearts,” Ferreira said. “If not for us, for the families and the community.”

Another formal tribute ceremony is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 18, at the Kona police station. Members of the public also are invited from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, May 20, to attend tours at the Hilo and Kona police stations. To schedule an appointment, call Omaya at 808-961-2264.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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