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Gov Appoints Hilo Native to Public Safety Director

November 30, 2020, 3:39 PM HST
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Max Otani

Max Otani was appointed by Gov. David Ige to serve as the director of the Department of Public Safety, effective Dec. 1, 2020.

Otani replaces Nolan Espinda, who retired in September.

“With Max taking the helm at Public Safety, I am confident that we can continue moving forward with initiatives set in motion by PSD’s previous director, Nolan Espinda and acting director Fred Hyun,” Ige said.

Otani is currently a board member for the Hawai‘i Paroling Authority (HPA). He has worked in a variety of positions in the state’s corrections and judicial systems for more than three decades. Otani began his criminal justice career with the Judiciary, as a Family Court officer and Circuit Court probation officer from 1985 to 1987. From there, he served more than two decades with the HPA in various positions. Otani became the Oahu Intake Services Center manager from 2003-2005 before he was promoted to Intake Service Center Division Administrator from 2011-13. He then moved on to become PSD’s deputy director for Corrections from 2013-14, before returning to his previous position as administrator of the Intake Service Center Division, where he remained until his retirement from PSD in 2016.

“During his career in corrections, Max initiated evidence-based practices with the incarcerated, parole and pretrial populations in efforts to reduce recidivism,” said Acting Director Fred Hyun. “He brings a wealth of knowledge to the job and I look forward to working with him in his new position.”

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“I would like to thank Gov. Ige for the opportunity to return to work with the Department of Public Safety. I look forward to working with staff, other agencies and community partners to address the needs of the department,” Otani said.

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Acting Director Hyun will return to his position as the chair of the HPA, effective Dec. 1, 2020. He will remain on board as Special Master, appointed by the governor, until Dec. 30 to complete the assessment of the Department of Public Safety.

“I’d like to thank Fred for stepping in to oversee the department during this transition period. COVID-19 is putting a huge burden on PSD’s overcrowded and aging correctional facilities. Once Fred reports his findings, I am confident he and Max will work together to address areas of concern and prioritize mitigation measures that will enable the department to operate more effectively,” Ige said.

Otani was born and raised in Hilo. He is a graduate of Hilo High School and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Otani also attended the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa where he earned a master’s in social work.

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Otani’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

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