HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii County police will start being outfitted with body cameras next week.

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Starting Monday, Nov. 9, the first wave of body-worn cameras will be live for officers in the South Hilo, Kona and Puna districts. There are also plans to expand to additional districts before the end of the year.

About 150 officers from patrol, community policing and traffic enforcement units will be the first to wear the cameras. They will be used for law enforcement purposes such as traffic stops and arrests. The cameras will stop recording once they are done with an incident.

“They’re probably trying to introduce it gradually,” said Malcolm Lutu, State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) President. “I know we started in stages, like, we went by districts to get the cameras out and there’s a training that goes with it.”

Lutu said officers need to know how to use the cameras, when to turn them on and off, and how to put the footage in the system, among other procedures.

The body cameras were initially supposed to be rolled out to Hawaii County Police in August or September of 2020, but factors including the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back further.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hawaii County Police Department said bringing in trainers to teach the officers how to use the equipment was a difficult task.

“It’s a matter of technology. You’re going to add another step to whatever routine they’re in, in order to download and do stuff like that with the body cameras,” said Lutu.

However, he said the beginning of the rollout is a good thing for both Big Island officers and residents.

“I think that keeps everybody honest. Once they know we’re recording, people tend to abide or obey the officers. It works both ways too. Knowing that we’re carrying it, our officers, (know it will show any) unfortunate demeanor on camera.”

Malcolm Lutu, SHOPO president

The Hawaii County Police Department said if they need to respond to a call at a person’s home, residents may request to have the cameras turned off, but it will be up to the officers’ discretion to do so or not.

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