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Kahealani Eskaran, 9, was attending a birthday party in rural Lanai City when she was cited for riding a bicycle without a helmet by Maui County police officer Kirk Pyland. Her father, Dean Eskaran, standing next to her, said he was coaching a Little League baseball game when he received a call from Pyland about the citation.
Critics complain officer follows law to the letter
Known in some Lanai circles as "Robocop," he has triggered both praise and outrage
LANAI CITY » Some call him "Robocop," after the 1987 film character -- a part-human, part-machine law enforcement officer in futuristic Detroit.
Rookie police officer Kirk Pyland, who has been on this rural island since January, by all accounts has reduced the crime rate on Lanai -- mostly burglaries and other break-ins.
But on an island with a population of 3,400 people and no stoplights, Pyland's traffic-law enforcement has ruffled some feathers. A petition asking Mayor Charmaine Tavares to intervene drew more than 400 signatures.
"It's not my intention to get him out of Lanai," said Julieann Mock Chew, who started the petition drive. "I think he just goes a little beyond what he needs to do."
Some Lanai residents have complained about Pyland handcuffing a driver who failed to stop in a timely manner, and issuing a ticket to a 9-year-old for riding a bike with no helmet.
"Kids not supposed to be afraid of the police," said resident Edward Obrero.
Pyland, who completed his recruit training in resort-oriented South Maui, is on a two-year rotation on Lanai, part of a Maui County Police Department program that provides officers to outlying rural districts such as Hana and Molokai.
"I care about my community," said Pyland. "I do the best I can." He declined further comment.
Some residents have criticized Pyland for citing a 9-year-old girl for riding a bicycle without a helmet near a home where she was attending an afternoon birthday party. The experience brought the girl, Kahealani Eskaran, to tears, they said.
"He could have done it in a nice way," said Dustin Kaopuiki. "It was a little too much. He scared the girl."
Samuel Dimaya Jr. said his 14-year-old son, Dain, was crossing Dole Park in the middle of Lanai City at 8:45 p.m. on Jan. 22 when he was detained by Pyland.
During the detainment, Pyland questioned Dain and put him in the police vehicle, Dimaya said.
The Maui County Police Commission said an investigation determined Pyland was acting within his authority.
Dimaya said he still wants an explanation from the commission why his son was held.
Assistant Police Chief Wayne Ribao said Pyland played an important role in the arrest an 18-year-old man and six juveniles, ages 13 and 14, in the break-in of the cafeteria at Lanai High and Elementary School on Jan. 19 and 20.
"They stole food from in there," Ribao said.
He said one of the juveniles was also charged with a separate burglary.
Phoenix Dupree, manager of the Blue Ginger Restaurant, said Lanai businesses had multiple break-ins before Pyland came and began patrolling.
"The break-ins have gone down," Dupree said.
Ron McOmber said he has been ticketed by Pyland for leaving his keys in his car, but supports the officer.
"He's going by the book. He seems like a pretty decent guy."
Police Commissioner John Ornellas, a resident on Lanai, said Pyland is doing his job but with a little zest.
"The majority of the people on Lanai agree with what officer Pyland is doing," Ornellas said. "He's not a loose cannon."
Sgt. Ernest Soares said several residents have publicly expressed support for Pyland.
"A number of people have come in to say, 'Good job. Keep it up.'"
Ribao said Pyland also took the initiative in working with county public works officials in helping to solve the abandoned-vehicle problem on Lanai.