Following a troubled selection process, Ann Botticelli was sworn in as a Honolulu police commissioner on Wednesday after winning unanimous approval from the City Council.
Mayor Rick Blangiardi nominated Botticelli, a former journalist and airline executive, for the seventh spot after his previous picks withdrew from consideration earlier this year.
Botticelli fills the final vacancy on the seven-member commission, which provides oversight of HPD and is in the process of choosing the next police chief amid tensions over racial disparities and recent fatal police shootings.
“I look forward to a collaborative relationship with the City Council as we tackle some of the issues that are before us in this community,” Botticelli said at the meeting. Her term will end on Dec. 31, 2025.
Past nominees for the position backed out after facing public scrutiny. Former police officer Benjamin Mahi withdrew his application the day before a City Council meeting in April, and former officer Larry Ignas backed out in June after facing public scrutiny for opining to the City Council that racial discrimination in Hawaii doesn’t exist.
Botticelli also had to overcome pushback from community members who raised concerns about her decision-making when she worked at Hawaiians Airlines and Kamehameha Schools. She also was criticized for supporting Blangiardi’s campaign and for lacking a criminal justice background and ties to marginalized communities.
The City Council praised Botticelli’s willingness to put herself forward and take on the responsibility of serving on the police commission.
Council member Andria Tupola said she’s glad that Botticelli has experience in executive positions. She remained concerned Botticelli’s resume doesn’t include a policing background but noted that “will be developed.”
“As a member of the police commission, you’re going to start to get that experience in policing, and sometimes the best way to get experience is to do it,” Tupola said.
In testimony, Botticelli’s supporters praised her leadership skills and journalism experience, noting she will ask tough questions.
“This has been a difficult appointment for many,” Chairman Tommy Waters said as he thanked the council and testifiers for participating in the months-long process.
“We’re in a very difficult moment as a community,” Chairman Tommy Waters said. “There’s no doubt that systemic changes are needed in our justice system.”
Botticelli retired last year from Hawaiian Airlines as its senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs. Previously she was founder and president of the Hoomalamalama Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission was developing “educational products that raise awareness of and funds for worthy charities.”
For six years, Botticelli was the vice president for community relations and communications for Kamehameha Schools. She has also held positions with Child & Family Services, a nonprofit, and Communications Pacific.
“We’re in a very difficult moment as a community.” — City Council Chair Tommy Waters
Prior to that, Botticelli was a news reporter at KHON, the Honolulu Advertiser and KITV. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and Punahou School.
She has served on the boards of numerous local organizations including the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Bishop Museum, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii, Blood Bank of Hawaii and Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice and Teach for America Hawaii.
“I can tell you that Ann had no problem digging in deep into very difficult, long-standing issues that created a divide in the Hawaiian community,” said Adrian Kamali‘i, who worked with Botticelli at Kamehameha Schools.
Members of the HPC Task Force, a small volunteer group that monitors commission activities, and testifiers on Oahu and Maui expressed disappointment that Blangiardi didn’t find someone from marginalized and low-income communities.
“They’ll take risks putting someone in who is politically connected but not actually qualified over taking a chance on someone who is not part of their circles, but actually qualified,” HPC Task Force member Jessica Hernandez said.
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Not a subscription
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.