Park City Police promotes first Pacific Islander Lieutenant

Posted at 5:48 PM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 19:48:58-05

PARK CITY – It’s been a historic day for the Park City Police Department. They promoted the first Pacific Islander Lieutenant – Vaifoa Lealaitafea.

“They call me Vai up here or Lt, lieutenant," he said.

Lealaitafea is still getting used to his new title. He’s had several since joining the force in 2004 as a reserve officer.

“My goal was to become a full-time officer, get on SWAT, work on gangs and narcotics," he said.

Within four years, Lealaitafea checked off every box. As Lieutenant, he’ll oversee special events and recruiting.

“It will be a different kind of stress as far as being on the street with patrol,” Lealaitafea said.

Captain Andrew Leathem says Lealaitafea is a natural leader and has earned the respect of his colleagues and the community.

“Every position Vai has had, he's flourished in," Leathem said. "Vai stays calm under pressure. I think that's one of his strongest attributes.”

The promotion earns him an accolade as the department’s first Pacific Islander Lieutenant.

“I've worked hard," he said. "I hope I've inspired others, not only Pacific Islander officers, to do the same.”

In his homeland of Samoa, he’s proud of another title. He’s the high chief of his family in the village of Salai’lua, Savaii, Samoa.

“The name of the title is Faaolafaiva. I’m supposed to be a helper for the community," he explains.

While his job in America is demanding, he rolls with it. He’s known to ride around the department halls on a scooter.

“We have a serious work place, but we have fun in a good way," Leathem said. "Vai tends to lighten up the mood."

Lealaitafea is enjoying the ride, with his wife and five children supporting him every step of the way.

“That's probably one of my favorite pictures," he said. "I tell her she's my partner. We did this together.”

About 100 of Lealaitafea’s family members will be at his promotion ceremony Thursday at the City Hall in Park City to celebrate his accomplishment.