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Mayor: It’s unacceptable that HPD chief isn’t ‘front and center’ in wake of police shootings

Updated: Apr. 24, 2021 at 5:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a rare public rebuke, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi publicly criticized HPD’s outgoing police chief for a lack of transparency and responsiveness in the wake of two fatal police shootings this month, including one that left a 16-year-old dead.

Blangiardi said Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard, who has announced she will leave her post June 1, has ignored his requests for briefings on the two shootings.

“Despite my repeated attempts to contact Chief Ballard by telephone, she has failed to return my calls since last week Friday,” said Blangiardi. ”Chief Ballard’s failure to communicate is unacceptable.”

Blangiardi said he wants more information about the police shooting April 5, in which HPD officers killed 16-year old Iremamber Sykap in McCully after a chase. He also has received no direct information from the chief, he said, on the fatal police shooting April 14 of 29-year old Lindani Miyeni in Nuuanu.

Ballard did not show up for a news conference last Friday where videos from police body cameras were released from the Miyeni case. An assistant chief briefed reporters instead.

And this past Wednesday, at the police commission meeting, a deputy chief was tasked with answering questions about why body camera footage was not being released from the McCully shooting.

Community watchdogs groups have been vocal about the need for more information on the two cases and the release of additional videos and the 911 calls.

“She should certainly be the public face of this situation,” said Meda Chesney Lind, a University of Hawaii professor of sociology and criminology.

“Right now we need accountability,” Lind said.

Blangiardi said in his video statement to Hawaii News Now that Ballard should be “front and center” when it comes to critical events.

“There is too much at stake for the community to be without transparent and responsible law enforcement leadership. The Police Commission needs to address her communication failure immediately,” Blangiardi said.

Lind said if Ballard can’t do her job “then perhaps she should leave a little earlier and let someone else be the acting chief and let that person begin to take steps in what needs to be the right direction.”

A spokesperson for the department said Ballard had been on medical leave for the past three days after a minor procedure.

Ballard issued this statement: “I shared whatever information I could with the mayor and Police Commission. At that time I told them that I am unable to discuss the specifics of police investigations.”

Ballard continued, “HPD’s priority is on investigating crimes and information that is prematurely released could jeopardize a case.”

Ballard is expected to return to work on Monday.

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