Honolulu Police Commission nominee Larry Ignas told City Council members on Wednesday that he has never witnessed racial discrimination in Hawaii and that he doesn’t believe it occurs here.

Ignas, 77, was responding to Councilwoman Esther Kiaaina, who asked him whether he acknowledges that racial discrimination exists in Hawaii.

Larry Ignas, Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s nominee to the Honolulu Police Commission, is a former police officer. Screenshot: Honolulu City Council

“I have never seen any,” he said. “I don’t see any discrimination, no. Not here in Hawaii, not like maybe back in the mainland.”

Many others disagree with his conclusion.

HPD itself has been scrutinized in the past year for racial disparities in officers’ use of force and arrests and in pandemic rule enforcement.

In response to Kiaaina, Ignas, who is white, said he has employed people of color at the security company he founded, Star Protection.

“I hired all different nationalities,” he said. “I treated them all as equal as I am, and I wish I’d have known about all this. I would’ve brought some here, and they would’ve testified for me. Marshallese, or Filipino or Hawaiians – they all know I’ve been a fair boss, I’ve been a great guy towards them all, and I don’t look at them as a racial – I treat everybody equally.”

Ignas is Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s second nominee to the commission, which provides oversight to the police department and has the power to hire and fire the police chief. The mayor said he sought someone with a law enforcement background and with empathy for police.

A Blangiardi spokesman did not respond to a question about whether the mayor agrees with Ignas’s take on racism in Hawaii.

The Honolulu City Council has the power to approve or reject mayoral nominations to the Police Commission.

Blangiardi’s selection hasn’t gone over well with some community members, with written testimony in opposition currently outnumbering letters of support.

“What the Commission needs most is a Commissioner who can bring the perspective and effective representation of our most marginalized communities, a perspective and expertise currently missing on the Commission,” Carla Allison wrote.

A resident of Hawaii for over 30 years, Ignas said he wants to serve on the commission because of his background as a police officer in East Chicago, Indiana, in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I could help because I’ve walked the walk as a police officer,” he said. “And I’ve been on the other side too, so with both sides, I could help out quite a bit with the city.”

Councilwoman Andria Tupola asked Ignas about his involvement in the community since his resume doesn’t reflect any work with local organizations, a point several testifiers criticized.

Ignas acknowledged he hasn’t done any community work in Hawaii, but said he worked on homelessness on the mainland.

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