Hawaii’s Hula Cop
Hawaii is regarded by many as an example of paradise: white sandy beaches, towering palm trees, and abundant culture. And living among all the beauty that flourishes on the Hawaiian islands are everyday people, including law enforcement officers (LEOs) who have sworn to protect their neighbors.
One of the most famous Hawaiian LEOs was a man named Peter Hose, who would be fondly remembered as the “Hula Cop.” Hose was born on September 29, 1881 in Honolulu, Hawaii; his father had come to the island from Cape Verde, off the coast of South Africa, in the late 1800s. It is unknown the exact date Hose joined the Honolulu Police Department, but from various local newspapers that profiled Hose during his career we can assume he was sworn in around 1907. While we may not know the exact date of his appointment, we do know that he was the first officer of African descent to join the department. He served with the Honolulu PD for 18 years, and very quickly gained a reputation for his friendliness toward both his colleagues and citizens in the community. But Officer Peter Hose was not only known for his kind disposition, but he was better known for the unique way in which he directed traffic—and the audiences who would gather to see it.
Officer Hose earned his nickname of “Hula Cop” through his practice of what he called the “traffic Hula.” Whenever the six-foot-six officer was on duty between Merchant and Fort Streets, an audience of tourists and locals alike would gather on the sidewalk to watch him work. On a visit to Hawaii in 1917, even actor Charlie Chaplain joined Hose’s audience. A newspaper reporter for the Manitowoc Herald Times wrote about Hose’s many performances on the Island streets: that “the ‘hula cop,’ … was a traffic cop who could make motorists laugh. To make motorists laugh in a traffic crush is no small accomplishment…Pete made the drivers laugh with just a suggestion of the immortal Hawaiian hula dance when he beckoned to traffic.” (Manitowoc Herald Times, December 16, 1926) The reporter also mentioned that while Hose’s courteous and joyful nature was certainly felt on those Hawaiian streets, he never forgot his duties as an officer. He made sure that the citizens were safe under his watch, and that traffic efficiently moved whenever he was on duty.
Eventually, Hose rose through the ranks from a traffic cop to a waterfront officer, welcoming ships to Hawaii’s shores. After his death of tuberculosis in 1925, his service to the town of Honolulu was honored with an electronic traffic signal named for him at one of the city’s busiest intersections.
Black Trailblazers in Blue is created in partnership between the National Law Enforcement Museum and the National Black Police Association to celebrate the triumphs of African American leaders in Law Enforcement.