Gov. David Ige is taking steps to replace the leadership at the top of Hawai‘i’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) following the announcement that Nolan Espinda, who is currently on leave, will be retiring by the end of the month.
The governor announced Tuesday that he has appointed Edmund “Fred” Hyun to serve as the Governor’s Special Master to assist in overseeing DPS. Hyun is the current chair of the Paroling Authority. Effective immediately and through the month of September, he will serve as special master of the department. He will continue in his position as chair of the Paroling Authority while serving as the special master.
“Managing our overcrowded, aging, chronically understaffed correctional facilities is one of the toughest jobs in the state,” Ige said. “The COVID-19 pandemic makes the job even more difficult. I have directed Fred to conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of the Department of Public Safety and to work with Dep. Director Maria Cook to implement any needed changes to enable it to operate more effectively.”
DPS, and particularly Espinda, came under fire in recent weeks as an outbreak of coronavirus gripped the O‘ahu Community Correctional Center. As of Monday, 80 OCCC staff have been infected along with 289 inmates. The cluster led to orders from the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court mandating the early release of several prisoners, which has led to several misdemeanor and felony offenders being turned loose across all islands.
Hyun will be assessing the operations of the administration, corrections, and law enforcement divisions, including strengths and weaknesses. He is also tasked with investigating the concerns the unions raised about the department’s COVID-19 response, according to a state press release. Following his assessment, he will be making recommendations to address any areas of concern and prioritize potential mitigation measures.
Hyun was born and raised on the island of O‘ahu where he attended the University Lab Schools. He graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with a degree in psychology and later earned a master’s degree in social work.
After completing his undergraduate requirements, Hyun served in the Hawai‘i Air National Guard. Following his initial active duty, he was hired by the Hawai‘i Youth Correctional Facility as a Youth Corrections Officer where he started the first halfway house for committed wards.
He then was hired as a supervisor with the Oʻahu Intake Service Center to address jail overcrowding. He became the Hawaiʻi Intake Service Center Manager until his retirement from Public Safety in 2003. Upon his retirement, Hyun worked in private security until he was hired by the Honolulu Liquor Commission.