Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has tapped a former island police officer to fill an open seat on the Honolulu Police Commission.
Benjamin Mahi is a retired HPD commander and is currently the chief of security at First Hawaiian Bank. If approved by the Honolulu City Council, he would fill the seat vacated by former judge Steve Levinson, who left the commission last year in frustration that he couldn’t effect change. His term would run through Dec. 31, 2025.
“I am honored that I am a candidate for Police Commissioner,” Mahi said in a statement. “I want to thank Mayor Rick Blangiardi for my nomination and selection to the Honolulu Police Commission. I look forward to the open and fair vetting process.”
Blangiardi’s office did not respond to a request for comment about the selection on Wednesday. However, the mayor said previously that he sought to appoint someone with law enforcement experience.
“I would appreciate your favorable consideration of Mr. Mahi’s appointment and request adoption by the City Council in the most expedient manner possible,” Blangiardi said in a letter to council members this week.
Mahi has a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix in organization management and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Wayland Baptist University. He worked as a military police kennel master in the U.S. Army from 1979 to 1991, according to his resume.
In 1991, he started working for HPD and retired in July 2016. The following year, he worked as a consultant at the Hawaiian Humane Society training animal control officers and subsequently worked security at the Rehab Hospital of the Pacific.
Mahi’s partner of 21 years currently works for HPD as a lieutenant.
If Mahi is confirmed by the council, he will become the seventh member of a group that provides oversight to the department and will decide whether to renew Ballard’s contract, which expires at the end of next year.
City Council Public Safety Committee Chair Heidi Tsuneyoshi did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii called Mahi’s nomination “deeply troubling and a real disappointment.”
The Police Commission reviews complaints filed against police officers, ACLU Executive Director Joshua Wisch noted.
“By selecting a former HPD officer, who likely still has personal relationships with many people in the department, it undermines public trust as to whether this person would be able to view complaints against his fellow former officers objectively and hold people to account,” he said.
The ACLU just settled a lawsuit with HPD over a case involving a conflict of interest: an officer who arrested a rival of his teenage son. In Wisch’s view, Mahi’s selection poses another conflict of interest.
“Appointing someone to the Police Commission who is not only a former HPD officer himself – but who is married to a current HPD officer – sends exactly the wrong message to HPD,” he said.
“It’s telling HPD to continue with business as usual – including its failure to address conflicts of interest – when a fundamental reimagining of how it does business is what’s needed.”
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