In a third attempt to fill a vacancy on the Honolulu Police Commission, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said on Friday that he has selected a woman for the job, but declined to announce her name.

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Asked if he is heeding calls from police reform advocates to select someone with a social justice background or someone from a marginalized community, Blangiardi said no.

“I’m not listening to those calls, but I think when you learn who this is, most people are going to be very surprised and supportive,” he said. “I’m not into reimagining our police department.”

Blangiardi said he would announce the name of his nominee in the next week. His selection will need the approval of the Honolulu City Council.

The Honolulu Police Commission provides oversight to the Honolulu Police Department and is charged with hiring the next chief following Susan Ballard’s retirement earlier this month.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi answers media questions about Oahu’s move to Tier 4 outside Honolulu Hale.
Mayor Rick Blangiardi voiced support for the police department at a press conference on Friday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

The mayor, who was endorsed by the police union, said that he initially wanted to fill the commission vacancy with a retired female police officer. However, he said, six candidates turned him down. He then selected former HPD commander Ben Mahi, but Mahi withdrew after his relationship with a current officer attracted conflict of interest concerns.

Blangiardi’s second pick for the commission, Larry Ignas, also withdrew amid backlash after he told City Council members he doesn’t believe there is racial discrimination in Hawaii.

The mayor said he disagreed with Ignas and that there is racism in the Aloha State.

“Obviously, yes there is,” he said.

Regarding the grand jury that declined to indict three police officers in the death of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap in April, Blangiardi said he was “not prepared to make a comment on that.” He said Interim HPD Chief Rade Vanic hasn’t briefed him on the matter.

“The grand jury goes through a lot of detail, explanation or whatever and they made that decision,” he said. “I’m sure they made it for good reasons.”

The mayor also didn’t take a stance on community demands to release the grand jury transcripts, a matter Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm’s office has declined to comment on.

“I don’t know enough about it to say that,” Blangiardi said. “Once I know something about that, I’ll offer an opinion, but I don’t know that that’s mine to weigh in on.”

Blangiardi was also asked to comment on police union president Malcom Lutu’s comments Thursday that the union is “never in favor of disciplinary action.” Blangiardi said he wouldn’t necessarily agree with that.

“I would never say never to anything,” he said. “I think you always have to look at the circumstances. I can say that, in support of police work, it’s a really difficult job, it’s a very hard job, it’s very challenging. And I can understand why Malcolm Lutu would make that statement.”

Overall, the mayor emphasized his support for the police.

“At the end of the day, our first priority when it comes to policing is to make sure the residents of this island feel safe each and every day, no matter where they go or what time of day,” he said.

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