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Senate Committee Defers Decision On Public Safety Chief’s Confirmation

Ku?uwehi Hiraishi

A state Senate committee deferred a decision Thursday on Gov. David Ige’s nominee to head the Department of Public Safety.

The Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs will vote on Nolan Espinda’s confirmation on April 11. The committee will also hold an additional informational briefing on the recent riot at Maui Community Correctional Center. 

Committee members pressed Espinda on the severe overcrowding in Hawai?i’s jails, sheriff-involved shootings, and a recent prison riot on Maui.

His supporters were made up largely of state agency heads and current and former department employees. They praised his decades of experience in public safety and his no nonsense management style. 

But those in opposition voiced concerns over what they described as questionable management of the department. Community justice advocates, including the Ho?omana Pono Political Action Committee and the Community Alliance on Prisons, opposed Espinda?s nomination, citing concerns for inmate safety and well-being. 

Espinda has held the director?s position since 2015. As department head, he oversees approximately 2,700 employees, eight correctional facilities, and roughly 5,000 inmates.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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