Name on ballot:
Kelden Braun Akoni Waltjen
Hawaii island prosecuting attorney
Previous job history:
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Hawai`i County, 2012-present
Law Clerk to Associate Justice Richard W. Pollack at First Circuit Court and Hawai`i Supreme Court, 2011-2012.
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I have served as a Prosecutor for Hawai`i Island for 8 years and am committed to making our home a safer place for everyone. I am the only candidate that continues to represent the people as a Prosecutor. I am specially assigned to work with HPD’s Special Enforcement Unit, where I handle cases involving serious, violent and repeat offenders, including dangerous narcotics dealers, illegal firearms, and property crimes. I have done trials ranging from DUIs to murders. I have dedicated my career to being a public servant for Hawai`i Island and was honored in 2019 as the County’s Employee of the Year. Given my time and experience with the office, I am the most familiar with the cases, prosecutors, and administrative needs and responsibilities, and am in the best position to lead our office moving forward.
What will be your top priority if elected?
The people of Hawai`i Island must trust that the criminal justice system is working for their safety and security. I will prioritize community safety by seeking stiffer penalties for serious, violent, and repeat offenders and focusing on the root causes of crime, such as mental health, substance addiction, at-risk youth and offenders reentering society. I will improve transparency, reexamine our current policies and procedures, and promote more coordination, training and response from our office and law enforcement. As part of my administration, I will also enhance community outreach by working with community members and leaders, as well as assigning deputy prosecutors to various districts across our island to ensure that each community’s concerns are heard and addressed. Productive collaboration with both community members and law enforcement will focus resources in the right places and allow our office to address the concerns of each community.
Did you support the release of some inmates to fight the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and jails? Please explain.
Most of the defendants that I am assigned to are serious, violent, or repeat offenders that have had a history of criminal activity and arguably would likely reoffend if released. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a collaborative effort by various government agencies and the Special Master to reduce the inmate population in compliance with the Hawaii Supreme Court’s orders. I carefully balanced the safety of our community with the safety of those at our correctional facilities on a case-by-case basis. Although I did not object to the release of some minor offenders, I strongly urged the Court to not release any inmates who I believed posed a danger to the community, a flight risk, and/or were likely to reoffend.
What is the most effective way to reduce crime on your island?
I believe that by applying a multifaceted approach in identifying and seeking stiffer penalties for serious, violent, repeat offenders and those who distribute dangerous narcotics (such as methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl), promoting rehabilitation and treatment for those suffering from addiction and mental illness, and utilizing available resources toward prevention, education, and reintegration we can reduce crime on Hawai`i Island.
Given the budget constraints of county government, are there certain crimes you would prioritize or de-prioritize in terms of prosecution?
I will prioritize the prosecution of serious and violent offenses, including homicides, sexual assault, domestic violence, and crimes against children and the elderly, repeat offenders, and dangerous narcotics dealers because they have the most widespread negative effects on our community. I would de-prioritize the simple possession of personal use amounts of marijuana.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
Yes, the safety of our community depends on law enforcement being willing and able to adapt to the changing needs of the public. Considering evolving approaches to crime should be part of every criminal justice agency. I respect our committed police officers who protect and serve the public, but I recognize that we should always strive for improvement. Law enforcement must continuously be trained, evolve, and seek improvement so that we can better serve our community. I believe improving accountability and transparency, reevaluating excessive use of force procedures, and additional training will serve both law enforcement and our community.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I was born and raised on Hawai`i Island. This island is my home and the safety of our people is my priority. As the only candidate who is a Prosecutor, I will ensure a smooth transition for our office so that we can focus on improvements and addressing crime. Hawai`i Island needs a Prosecutor that can hit the ground running from day one. I will continue to be involved, provide support, and actively work on cases. I will continue to pursue justice and seek positive changes that will make a true difference in the lives of the people of Hawai`i Island.
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