Maui’s Top Cop, Now in Spotlight, Previously Led Las Vegas Strip Command for LVMPD

Posted on: August 16, 2023, 02:29h. 

Last updated on: August 18, 2023, 10:36h.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier, who has gotten national attention since the Hawaiian island was struck by a deadly wildfire last week, is no stranger to Las Vegas residents.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier
Maui Police Chief John Pelletier, pictured above at a press conference. He formerly was a police captain in Las Vegas. (Image: Sky News)

Pelletier worked his way up to captain in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) over his 22-year career. He also was commander of the department’s Major Violator/Narcotics Bureau and was in charge of the K-9 and SWAT units.

He was best known as the commander of the policing district that includes the Las Vegas Strip. During his watch, he played a key role in the response to the Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting, which led to the deaths of 58 people, with two more perishing in later years. Hundreds of others were injured in the attack.

The experience helped to prepare him for the grim, ongoing challenges on Maui, where the mounting death toll from the fire has reached 106, with more likely. That makes it the deadliest fire in the US in over 100 years.

Since the wildfire, Pelletier frequently appears on televised press conferences to update the media and public on the police response to the tragedy. He stands alongside such recognizable figures as Hawaii Gov. John Green (D), and Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen.

During his statements, Pelletier has called on the community to practice “patience, prayers and perseverance,” according to the Associated Press.

Pelletier voiced a similar message after the Las Vegas Strip mass shooting. That incident became notorious as the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

Proud of Vegas Experience

When Pelletier was named Maui’s police chief in 2021, he was proud of what the LVMPD was able to achieve following the mass shooting.

We took the biggest crime scene, second only to 9/11, and we did everything to mitigate that,” he recalled while being considered for the top cop job on Maui, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. “We brought a community together. We did something really, really great.”

The two incidents also led to stressful and emotional times for officers and the wider community.

Puts Incident in Perspective

Pelletier isn’t hesitant to clarify what’s at stake after such tragedies; families and friends have lost those they deeply care about, and neighborhoods hold more than just physical evidence.

It’s not just ash on your clothing when you take it off. It’s our loved ones,” Pelletier recently stated.

The current process in Maui — to find bodies, identify victims, and inform families — is similar to the one used after the mass shooting on the Strip.

It takes time and needs to be done correctly, Pelletier has reminded the media during his press conferences.

When we find these … you know, our family and our friends … the remains we’re finding is through a fire that melted metal. We have to do rapid DNA to identify them,” Pelletier was quoted by USA Today.

Las Vegas and Maui are known as tourist meccas, so Pelletier’s experience in Clark County in dealing with diverse visitors is helpful to the role in Hawaii.

Pelletier was born in Buffalo, NY and is a third-generation police officer. He graduated from UNLV with a degree in political science and attended the FBI Academy.