Hawaii state Senate votes to confirm public safety director

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s state Senate reconfirmed the director of the state Department of Public Safety, despite concerns by some lawmakers over violent events and issues within the department.

The Senate voted to give Nolan Espinda another four-year term Wednesday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

Espinda watched the vote from the gallery with Democratic Gov. David Ige.

The 17 to 8 confirmation vote was a rejection of a recommendation earlier this month by the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs.

The committee raised several concerns including a recent riot at a Maui jail, the fatal shootings of an Oahu inmate and a homeless man, incarceration of prisoners beyond their release dates and reports of a department culture of retaliation and intimidation.

“This type of environment cannot and should not be allowed to continue,” said Democrat Sen. Clarence Nishihara, announcing his opposition to Espinda’s confirmation. “What I am saying is the current director is not the right person for leading and managing this large and complex organization.”

Several senators said recent events concerned them but they felt Espinda was committed to making reforms.

The Maui riot was bound to happen whether Espinda was the director or not, said Sen. Kurt Fevella, the lone Republican in the Senate.

Severely overcrowded conditions in the state’s jails have persisted for years and part of the blame rests with the Legislature for not providing enough financial support to the corrections system, Fevella said.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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