The Kauai Police Department is the smallest force in Hawaii, and now they’re the first police department in the state that requires all of its officers to use body cameras.
KPD Chief Darryl Perry says the cameras have made the officers better. Perry says Kauai police have received fewer reports of officers using excessive force since starting the program.
The body cameras are a part of the department’s push to change the public’s perception about law enforcement.
KPD also says it wants the public to see what really happens when officers are out in the field.
Kauai police released body cam footage from a recent incident on Kauai, to illustrate the quick thinking officers undergo in the field.
County spokesperson Sarah Blane said, “police received a complaint regarding individuals who were blocking access to the entrance of a privately-owned property located in Wainiha.
Contractors hired by the property owner were reportedly attempting to access the property to remove an illegal wooden structure that was erected on the property without the owner’s permission.
Officers arrived at the scene and located four individuals who were found to be blocking access to the property. Officers notified the individuals of the violation and after refusing to vacate the premises, the violators were arrested. All were booked at the Līhu‘e police station and have since been released after posting bail.”
“You only got a few seconds to make the decision. Based on what’s presented to you. At that moment,” said assistant chief Roy Asher.
Kauai Police put KHON reporter Brigette Namata through a real-life scenario.
Police strapped a body camera to her chest, a simunition pistol in her belt, and with only one piece of advice: “Think about your safety and the safety of others.”
In the simulation, Namata encountered an irate man walking towards her with a knife.
After initial attempts to de-escalate the situation, Namata was forced to shoot when the man lunged with the knife.
“When the situation escalates to a point where the officer feels the threat is severe and imminent, not only to himself, but to others, then that’s the last thing you ever want to do. We’re not trigger happy people,” said Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry.
The Department believes the body cameras put both officers and citizens on their best behavior.
“I think the cameras have something to do with that. Because of the cameras present, the officers are now gonna think before they act knowing its recorded,” explained Asher.
KPD recorded 37 reports of “use of force” in 2015. In 2016, that number dropped to 11.
So far in 2017, there have been 2 recorded reports of “use of force.”
KPD says they’ve also reduced the number of citizen complaints against their department.
Kauai is the smallest police force in the state, with 148 officers. County spokesperson Sarah Blane says 105 officers received body cameras.
Chief Perry hopes by sharing body cam footage, it invites what he calls an “overdue discussion” with the public.
“We’re out in the community every day. Officers go to the same store. Go to the same hospital. Drop off their kids in the same school. We’re
like everybody else. We just have a different job. And we have to enforce the laws. And some people don’t like that… but that’s our job,” said Perry.