Honolulu Mayor Must Select Police Commissioner With Broad Support - Honolulu Civil Beat


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The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Chad Blair, Jessica Terrell, Julia Steele, Lee Cataluna, Kim Gamel and John Hill. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at cblair@civilbeat.org.


Rick Blangiardi ran for Honolulu mayor because, he said, the City and County needed “a strong, decisive and experienced executive leader” who can bring “the best and brightest local minds to our team” to solve pressing problems.

On that count, the mayor fell woefully short — twice — in his responsibility to make good appointments to the Honolulu Police Commission.

Ben Mahi, a former Honolulu Police Department officer, withdrew his name from consideration two months ago after facing criticism for possible conflicts of interest.

On Friday, the mayor’s second nominee, Larry Ignas, withdrew his name after coming under fire for telling the City Council he doesn’t believe racial discrimination exists in Hawaii.

Blangiardi’s poor picks come as the commission is in the process of hiring a new police chief and has an acting chief who replaced a chief who retired early after receiving a withering evaluation from the commission in April.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi announcing on Hawaii News Now that police commissioner appointee Larry Ignas had withdrawn his nomination after widespread criticism. Screenshot from HNN

HPD also faces a lot of questions about the lack of consistent policies regarding release of body-worn camera footage in officer-involved shootings.

To his credit, the mayor says he is no longer seeking a former police officer for the vacant seat on the seven-member commission. But the fact that his administration appears to have not done basic due diligence on the first two nominees raises concerns.

It’s not lost on us that Blangiardi was endorsed by the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, a union that is often a powerful obstacle to law enforcement reform.

And it’s not as if the mayor does not understand the issue of conflict of interest. His wife, business executive Karen Chang, rightly resigned as a police commissioner shortly after Blangiardi formally declared his candidacy in February, 2020.

The issues of racial discrimination and arrest disparities in policing have been widely reported. Was Ignas, also a retired cop, not prepped in advance for obvious questions about his views on these matters?

Blangiardi says he is now working on vetting a new candidate for a position he says he recognizes is “very important.”

To that end, we recommend he consider a nominee with experience in social advocacy, as no one with that background currently sits on the commission. The councilwoman who asked Ignas about racial discrimination, Esther Kiaaina, also has noted that no commission members are from the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.

The mayor is also advised to select a nominee of similar caliber to commissioners Michael Broderick, a former judge, and Doug Chin, a former attorney general. Their experience and their positions on transparency and accountability have strengthened the commission, which also features University of Hawaii general counsel Carrie Okinaga, hotelier Jerry Gibson, retired petroleum executive Richard Parry and Shannon Alivado, the current chair who has extensive legal experience in the public and private sectors.

The police commission not only appoints and may remove the police chief. It also reviews HPD’s rules and regulations, reviews the budget and may make recommendations to the mayor. The commission also investigates charges brought by the public against alleged department and officer misconduct.

Public faith in our police department has rarely been so low. Earlier this month former chief Louis Kealoha began serving a seven-year sentence in federal prison for his conspiracy and obstruction convictions — something that Kealoha, amazingly, now flatly denies responsibility for.

Let’s get it right this time, Mr. Mayor. Select a police commission nominee that can win the full support of the Council and the people they — and you — represent.


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About the Author

Civil Beat Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Chad Blair, Jessica Terrell, Julia Steele, Lee Cataluna, Kim Gamel and John Hill. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at cblair@civilbeat.org.


Latest Comments (0)

How about another woman? Someone with experience in the non-profit sector or health/wellness? Maybe even Hawaiian or Filipino? I have no one in mind, but I'm sure others can find some qualified candidates to suggest to the mayor.

MW · 3 months ago

I would support retiring Deputy Chief John McCarthy.

Legaleagle · 3 months ago

It seems he chooses people that would be good for the public! But, these people dont want the abuse from the Unions and influential politicians. That tells me, they would be good for the job!

Richard · 3 months ago

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