Police commission nominee denies racism exists in Hawaii
HONOLULU (AP) — A white man the mayor has tapped to fill a vacancy on the Honolulu Police Commission said he doesn’t believe racial discrimination exists in Hawaii.
When City Councilwoman Esther Kia‘aina asked Larry Ignas at a council meeting Wednesday if he acknowledged there is racial discrimination in Hawaii, the 77-year-old said he hasn’t seen any in his more than 30 years in the state.
“I have never seen any,” Ignas said. “I don’t see any discrimination in Hawaii not like back in the mainland.”
He founded the private security firm Star Protection Agency and later ran United Security Alarms. Before coming to Hawaii, he was a police officer in East Chicago, Indiana.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, attended the council meeting but did not testify on behalf of Ignas, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Blangiardi declined to answer questions from the newspaper, including whether he shares Ignas’ beliefs on racial discrimination.
Councilwoman Radiant Cordero called his comments “out of touch” and “upsetting.” Council Chairman Tommy Waters said, “Mr. Ignas’ comments were insensitive, offensive and frankly, ignorant.”
Waters noted that a Honolulu Police Department report showed that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who make up 25% of Oahu’s population, were the subject in more than a third of the incidents involving police use of force in 2019. Hawaii residents who are Black or part-Black, and represent only 4.3% of Honolulu’s population, were subject of the use of force in 7.4% of incidents.
After the hearing, council members referred the nomination to the City Council Committee on Public Safety for further review.
Fourteen out of 17 people who submitted written testimony and all five who testified remotely were opposed to Ignas serving on the commission.
Louis G. Herman, a professor of political science at University of Hawaii-West Oahu wrote in testimony that Ignas’ career seems to have been focused on protection of property.
“There is no evidence of post high school education, any experience in investigating complaints against the police, any concern with or knowledge of systemic racism in policing, militarization of police forces in the United States, excessive police use of force, lethal police shootings,” he wrote. “Has Mr. Ignas ever been an advocate for the community at large? For marginalized groups? Does he have any knowledge of or experience with our vulnerable communities, the mentally ill, homeless, Pacific Islanders, victims of domestic violence.”
Jill Baptist submitted testimony in favor of Ignas.
“As the general manager of Alakea Corporate Tower, Larry has made security a priority for the building, its tenants and visitors,” she wrote. “He has trained his team to be vigilant and mindful of potential dangers surrounding the building.”