The Hawaii Police Department’s annual National Police Week ceremony, always solemn and poignant, was especially so Monday.
“Sadly, for the Hawaii Police Department, this year, in addition to the names of our fallen brethren that have been recognized during ceremonies in previous years, we pay special tribute to our brother, Officer Bronson Kaimana Kaliloa, who was killed in the line of duty on July 18, 2018,” Chief Paul Ferreira told those who gathered at the department’s memorial wall, Ka Malu Aloha, at the Hilo Police Station.
The name of Kaliloa, who was fatally shot by a wanted fugitive during a traffic stop in Mountain View, is now engraved on the wall with those of the four other Big Island officers who gave their lives in the line of duty: Officer Manuel Cadinha, who died in 1918; Officer William “Red” Oili, who died in 1936; Officer Ronald “Shige” Jitchaku, who died in 1990; and Officer Kenneth Keliipio, who died in 1997.
Also honored was National Park Service Ranger Steve Makuakane-Jarrell, who was shot to death while on duty at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in 1999.
Ferreira noted the law signed by President John Kennedy on Oct. 1, 1962, designating May 15 as Peace Officers’ Memorial Day — honoring officers who died or became disabled while performing their duties — and the week each year that day occurs as National Police Week. He added a local police delegation currently is in Washington, D.C., representing the department.
“During the ceremony in Washington, D.C., Officer Kaliloa’s name will be unveiled on the blue-gray marble walls of the memorial, which now displays 21,910 names of law enforcement officials that paid the ultimate price, while upholding the laws created to protect all people,” Ferreira said. “With the addition of Officer Kaliloa, there are now the names of 56 officers from the state of Hawaii who are memorialized on the National Law Enforcement Memorial.
“For us here on Hawaii Island, the names of our fallen heroes are etched onto the Hawaii Police Department’s law enforcement memorial, Ka Malu Aloha. With the tragic loss of Officer Bronson Kaimana Kaliloa last year, his name has been memorialized on our wall through the unselfish donation of Mr. Michael Sasaki, who also donated his talents during the building of our memorial.”
The Rev. Renee Godoy, a police chaplain, said her duties at the Police Week ceremony are her “most solemn responsibility, the one I take most seriously each year.” She noted, “This year is sad.”
Speaking to the families of the fallen, she said, “Your loved one made the ultimate sacrifice, as did your family, because they were a protector. They didn’t do it because they wanted to leave you. They did it because of a deep love for you, for the community, for those they never knew the names of — for us.”
County Managing Director Wil Okabe, representing Mayor Harry Kim, said Hollywood has sold us on the idea of superheroes, and added, “There’s no question that the true heroes are here today before us — not only speaking on behalf of the men and women in blue, but also you, the families of our fallen officers.”
Describing police work as “a thankless job … that requires a high tolerance of stress,” Okabe told the officers present, “It’s not what you say that is important. It is the integrity of what you do that is important.”
U.S. Honor Flag founder Christopher Heisler, a retired U.S. Army sergeant, brought the flag to the ceremony. Since September 2001, the U.S. Honor Flag has paid tribute to those who lost their lives in the line of duty, whether military or first responders, and those who currently serve.
Heisler, who presented Casey Kaliloa, Bronson Kaliloa’s widow, a pair of gloves that touched the Honor Flag, said that since 9/11, “this single flag has traveled seven million miles” and “we saved the best for last; we came to Hawaii last.”
“This flag has been to schools — elementary schools, high schools, public schools, private schools, every military academy in the nation,” Heisler said. “… And every time we go to one of these schools, we get to tell students about what a hero is and what a hero does. Much like Martin Luther King said not to judge a man by the color of his skin but the content of his character, what we do is look at the content of the sacrifice of the men and women who … every single day, without hesitation, leave home — not knowing if they’re coming back.
“We have the opportunity to share with students all across the nation what integrity is, what loyalty is, what it is to be honest, what it is to be true.
“That’s what heroes represent.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.