LIHUE — If Todd Raybuck has any immediate plans to shake things up in the Kauai Police Department after he takes over as police chief next week, he isn’t letting on.
For now, the incoming chief said he is just going to take some time to learn about the department and its officers.
“It’s important for me to keep an open mind,” he said.
Raybuck has been studying and researching the KPD since accepting the position, reading through documents related to police operations and having daily conversations with acting KPD Chief Michael Contrades.
One of the documents Raybuck reviewed was a 2017 study of the KPD’s staffing situation conducted by an independent consulting group. The conclusions of the study included a number of suggestions for how the department might use its manpower more effectively by modifying officer job descriptions and reallocating resources and responsibilities in some KPD bureaus.
Raybuck said he thought the report’s suggestions were worth considering but does not intend to make any changes until he gets a chance to deal with the department firsthand.
“I think the biggest thing I want to get done is to get to know the organization and this community,” he said. “As somebody coming from the mainland, it would be naive of me to start making decisions about the direction of this organization.”
Raybuck got to the island last week and recently met the men and women he will soon command. He described the KPD officers as “hard-working guys” who welcomed him in a way he never anticipated.
Raybuck started his law enforcement career in Hawaii and said he is grateful for the opportunity to end up here again.
After graduating high school in a town near Chicago, Raybuck joined the Air Force as a military law enforcement officer. He requested to be sent to a base in London or Hawaii and was thrilled to find he would be stationed on Oahu.
Raybuck completed his term in the Air Force and joined the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, starting out as a beat cop patrolling the Las Vegas Strip.
Four years later, Raybuck made detective and began a brief, six-month stint working for the department’s vice section. As an undercover officer, Raybuck conducted prostitution stings and handled what he called “pimp-related crimes.” The assignment was a whole new experience for Raybuck, then a young officer in his mid-20s.
“It was something that this kid had never experienced before,” he said.
At his next job, Raybuck learned lessons he hopes will serve him well on Kauai. Raybuck took a position patrolling an area covering two small towns near the southern tip of Nevada. As an officer in the lightly-populated region, Raybuck said he faced many of the challenges familiar to the KPD’s patrol officers.
“It was a rural officer position. So I worked in an area where my backup would sometimes be 30 minutes away,” he said, describing a situation Kauai officers frequently face. “It was probably one of the most influential positions I ever worked, because you learn how to talk to people.”
Two years later, Raybuck moved back to Las Vegas, this time as an undercover narcotics detective. It was the late 1990s, and the drug known as ecstasy or MDMA was rapidly growing in popularity. Raybuck created a new unit in the LVMPD, focused on creating public awareness about the drug.
At first, Raybuck was the only officer in his new “demand reduction unit,” but his efforts snowballed. Eventually, Raybuck said the program became a permanent fixture in the department and “ecstasy dropped off the radar.”
Later, Raybuck worked in a unit charged with investigating organized crime and public corruption, an experience he described as “eye-opening.” Before retiring from the LVMPD, Raybuck was the commander for one of the department’s patrol substations. Now he said he is just happy to be back in Hawaii.
”I get to hopefully finish my law enforcement career in a place where it all began,” he said. “I am not lost on the incredible opportunity I’ve been presented.”