HONOLULU (KHON2) — Body cameras have been widely used by law enforcement agencies around the country. But deputy sheriffs in Hawaii still don’t have them and they’re likely years away from getting them.
The Honolulu Police Department (HPD) started using bodycams nearly four years ago. As for deputy sheriffs, lawmakers said the Department of Public Safety (PSD) has not asked for funding for them.
In those few years, bodycam footage has provided key evidence in major cases for the police department. Lawmakers point out that it’s just a good idea to have them with any interaction with the public.
“Especially when it’s controversial as to how it was handled. I think it’s a good idea they do have some back up in terms of at least showing that they did their job properly. I think it’s always important,” said Sen. Clarence Nishihara, Senate Public Safety Committee Chairman.
He added that bodycams could have been helpful in Friday’s incident when a deputy was arrested for assaulting another deputy at the airport.
The department initially said the deputy was charged but the attorney general’s office told KHON2 that he was arrested and released pending further investigation.
Nishihara said he has spoken with the director of PSD, and there are plans to get bodycams. But getting them out into the streets is still a few years away.
“The way it’s going now is they’re going to come and ask the legislature for money to purchase these bodycams. Then they have to go through this process of making sure people know how to train to do it,” said Nishihara.
PSD sent a statement that stated it considered establishing a body-worn camera initiative in the past, but due to COVID-19 related budget constraints across the state at the time, the department was unable to institute the program.
ACLU Hawaii said deputies should have them as long as good policies are in place.
“We’ve seen instances in the past where bodycams weren’t turned on when they should’ve been turned on, when bodycam footage was taken but not released,” said Josh Wisch, executive director of ACLU Hawaii. “And in some cases, bodycam footage was taken and released selectively and none of that is any good.”
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Wisch added that the PSD can learn some lessons from the mistakes made by other law enforcement agencies.