HONOLULU (KHON2) — Every police department in the state is using body-worn cameras, but there are questions as to why key police divisions don’t have them and concerns surrounding policy violations.
A tense, hours-long barricade situation inside the Ohia Hotel in Waikiki last Thursday highlighted the need for more divisions in the Honolulu Police Department to be outfitted with body-worn cameras.
The incident ended with officers shooting and killing the 48-year-old suspect. The only footage captured of the incident and how it all went down –hotel surveillance.
That’s despite the fact that the HPD first rolled out its body-worn cameras more than four years ago, outfitting about 1200 officers in August of 2018.
“We issued it just to patrol officers those that are in uniform,” HPD Chief Joe Logan explained. “So while other officers that are in the patrol districts are not necessarily on the beat per se at patrol, they don’t have body-worn cameras. Nor does our specialized services division, which were depicted in that video.”
According to Logan, HPD is working on renegotiating its contract with Axon, which he said should be completed in 2023 allowing them to expand their coverage.
“So in that realm, we’re looking at providing body-worn cameras to increase the capacity to other officers in other divisions.”
But he said one of the sticking points is cost.
According to Kauai’s Police Chief Todd Raybuck, the cameras aren’t the most expensive part.
“All of that video has to go somewhere and stay there, and it’s very costly for the police departments to store all that data,” said Raybuck.
Another issue: violations.
According to a recent audit of HPD, violations have almost doubled since last year, with a total of 58 in 2021 and 95 in 2022.
The bulk of the infractions from failing to activate the camera– which they are required to do when responding to a call.
The Honolulu Police Commission is requesting HPD increase the level of discipline for BWC violations.
According to HPD, “First-time violators are generally counseled on the body-worn camera policy and warned that repeat violations may result in progressive disciplinary action.”
There are clearly issues that need to be addressed, but Maui Police Department Acting Sgt. Paul Pomainville said the body cams have had a positive impact.
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“It actually helps the officers for when we get complaints,” he explained. “Also, hopefully, it deters that one bad apple from doing something bad as well. So I know it’s both sides. And I think it’s a benefit for not only the community being transparent, I think it’s also a great asset for the department as well.”