LIHUE — Todd Raybuck has officially taken over as chief of the Kauai Police Department.
Only a few locals came to watch the change of command ceremony at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall on Monday morning, but a number of distinguished guests were in attendance, including Pacific Missile Range Facility commander Capt. Vincent Johnson, Senate President Ron Kouchi and Kauai Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami.
“This is one of the most nerve-wracking speeches I’ve ever had to give,” Kawakami said, as he stepped up to the podium, encouraging the solemn crowd of police officers, politicians and family members to lighten up and enjoy the ceremony.
Kawakami started by thanking Michael Contrades for standing in as acting-chief of police following the retirement of former KPD Chief Darryl Perry last July.
“I cannot tell you how grateful the people of Kauai are for the sacrifices you have made,” Kawakami told Contrades. “So from the bottom of our hearts, mahalo nui loa.”
Then, turning to the incoming police chief, Kawakami welcomed Raybuck “with open arms.”
“Kauai is now your home,” he said, adding a half-serious word of advice.
“We’re not always going to see eye-to-eye,” he cautioned, promising Raybuck, “I will always fight and strive to get to a place where we can see heart-to-heart.”
Contrades spoke next. From the start, he was overcome with emotion as he prepares to retire after nearly a quarter century with the KPD.
“I knew this was going to be difficult,” he began.
Contrades called Raybuck a “very impressive person,” who he has talked with on an almost-daily basis in recent weeks in preparation for handing over the reigns of the department. He said Raybuck impressed him as an accomplished, sincere and knowledgeable law enforcement officer whose personality will be a nice fit for the KPD and the island.
“He has that local style,” he said.
The outgoing chief gave a few words of encouragement to the officers that had been under his command and noted some of the department’s achievements during his tenure, pointing specifically to the implementation of an online crime reporting system and the creation of a police exam prep course for new recruits, “which is already showing positive results.”
He praised the KPD patrol bureau for continuing to provide a “high level of service” despite shortages that have forced many of Kauai’s beat cops to frequently work 17-hour shifts, promising the officers that “hiring will continue to be a top priority.”
“This is where it gets difficult,” Contrades said, his voice breaking mid-sentence. “To my family, I know it wasn’t easy, but thank you for putting up with me.”
After some brief formalities that made the change of command official, Raybuck addressed the KPD officers for the first time as chief of police.
“I don’t think this is ever gonna happen again,” he said. “So I’m going to take a photo.”
Raybuck pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the 30 or so officers that had saluted him moments before, after his wife pinned on the new badge.
“I’m honored to wear this uniform,” Raybuck said, telling the story of how he began his career in law enforcement in Hawaii, when he joined the Air Force and was stationed on Oahu from 1987 to 1990. “I have to say, it feels good to be back in blue.”
Raybuck’s speech primarily focused on his continuing efforts to get to know the island and its people and reiterated his pledge to work toward resolving the departments ongoing staffing shortage.
The new police chief talked about plans to build trust and respect, with a special emphasis on the island’s youth, a segment of the population from which he hopes to recruit KPD officers in the future.
“I look forward to the opportunity to talk story with you, and malaho nui loa,” he said.