The Kauai Police Department announced Friday, Dec. 18, that it is distributing its body-worn cameras to patrol officers next week, making it the first department in the state to implement a body-worn camera program.
“This is a program that we’ve tested and vetted for over a year and we’re excited to finally begin implementation,” stated Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry. “The Kauai Police Department is committed to creating a more transparent department and being more accountable to the community that we serve. This technology is another step in the right direction toward achieving that goal.”
Earlier this year, KPD purchased 105 body cameras from Taser International following extensive research and studies, along with implementation of a month-long pilot program. Throughout next week, all patrol officers will be outfitted with their new cameras, which will be worn on the officer’s uniform collar or mounted on eyewear.
The department’s camera usage policy requires the officer to turn on the cameras during traffic stops, arrests, criminal investigations and other on-duty assignments, such as crowd control. The equipment must be charged after each shift, when recordings are uploaded and stored to a secured third party site.
Officers do not have the ability to edit or modify the footage.
Law enforcement officials believe that body-worn cameras help to create a positive impact on police interactions by encouraging officers to maintain the highest level of professionalism, while protecting them from false allegations of misconduct.
“Knowing that such interactions are being recorded will help all parties to be more aware of their actions,” added Chief Perry. “We believe this is a win-win for both our officers and our citizens. By increasing oversight and accountability we will ultimately help to create a safer community.”
More than 80 officers got a refresher training course to wear the body cameras and at least some of them will be using them while on duty.
“It will be turned on during investigative stops, traffic violations, things of that nature. As long as there’s criminal nexus or something to do with contact with the public and the officer believes that it should be recorded, it will be recorded,” Perry said.
Perry says there are situations when the officer is allowed to turn the camera off.
“A victim or a witness who doesn’t want to be recorded, then the officer has the discretion to turn off the camera, but he has to submit a supplemental report as to why the camera was shut off,” Perry said.
SHOPO, the police officers’ union, is fighting it. President Tenari Maafala says the union is in favor of the cameras, but adds that KPD is not complying with collective bargaining rules.
“We’re sending him a notice that we’re aware that he’s implementing the policy contrary to what the law calls for and we’re putting him on notice that we respectfully ask that you cease and desist,” Maafala said.
SHOPO plans to file a complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, and Maafala says there are still privacy issues that need to be ironed out.
“No matter what policy you put on the table, it will never be a hundred percent. We learn as we progress through,” Maafala said.
Meanwhile, the Honolulu Police Department will be testing body cameras worn by its officers in the new year. A spokeswoman says the department is working on a policy and plans to conduct a pilot project next year.
Maui’s police department has received funding and is working on policies for the use of body cameras.
On Hawaii Island, a spokesman says the department continues to research the issue.
With other counties looking to get the cameras, the ACLU wants more assurance that privacy rights are not violated.
It sent KHON2 a statement, saying, “There must also be safeguards in place to prevent individual officers from tampering with footage at their own discretion. Other key areas needing safeguards and clear policies include data retention, protecting the privacy of the general public, what videos can (or must) be made public.”
For Kauai, Taser International will manage the storage of the video.
“Our videos are tamper-proof. It cannot be edited. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t do it. It’s secured once the video is submitted,” Perry said.
As far as how long the video will be kept, it depends on the crime recorded. The video can be deleted once it has past the statute of limitations.