Public Safety Director grilled over MCCC riot, department policies
State senators want to know what happened at MCCC on March 11th.
"There are so many unanswered questions," said State Senator Rosalyn Baker during an informational hearing at the Hawaii State Capitol Tuesday.
The hearing the second time in two weeks Hawaii Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda faced State Senators, and it won't be the last. Thursday, the same group of lawmakers will decide if he'll keep his job.
Tuesday, they grilled him about several events that happened while he was in charge. The one event that received the most attention was the March 11th disturbance at the Maui Community Correctional Center.
However, at the beginning of the hearing, Governor David Ige's Chief of Staff, Ford Fuchigami made a statement saying some information could not be disclosed because of ongoing criminal and administrative investigations. Deputy Attorney General Craig Iha was present to be sure of that.
The attorney's presence and way he prevented Espinda from answering some questions appeared to agitate senators.
"When was the last time that equipment for the guards at MCCC, when was the last time it was update?" asked Sen. Baker. Fuchigami leaned over to talk with Espinda so Baker responded with, "And I'll tell you why I'm asking that question while you're mulling over whatever it was that your attorney whispered in your ear."
For more than two hours, the senators asked a range of questions like what gear corrections officers were carrying at the time? And why MCCC employees told senators they didn't feel supported by supervisors?
"But to not have any expression from upper management to the other staff that were there and were actually trying to pull inmates out, trying to keep other officers from being burned in the riot that happened to me is unconscionable," said Sen. Baker.
"You called this a disturbance, but by all accounts that we've heard this was a riot," said State Senator Breene Harimoto.
"I respect and totally emphasize with any feelings or expressions from the staff that went through this traumatic event," said Espinda.
Espinda told the committee it could take months before the MCCC investigation wraps up. He may or may not have a job when its finished.
Senators also pressed Espinda, as well as Deputy Director of Law Enforcement Renee Sonobe Hong and State Sheriff Al Cummings, on February's fatal shooting at the state capitol, training for correctional officers and deputy sheriffs, and policies on what weapons they are or should be carrying.