We’ve been asking for years, and now the Honolulu Police Department is finally ready to begin testing body cameras.
The pilot project will be rolled out in mid-September.
SHOPO, the police officers union, tells us it will be a six-month pilot project.
Of more than 2,100 police officers on the force, we’re told a few hundred will get them first. Sources say different body camera vendors will be tested during that time.
Honolulu would be the latest county department to test out body cameras — following Maui, which is still in the testing phase, and Kauai, which is already using them.
The police union says body cameras will provide a layer of transparency that the public desires.
“It helps keep the officer accountable to know, hey, you’re being watched,” said SHOPO president Tenari Maafala. “More importantly, safety, utmost for the community and the officers. But also, again, I’ve said it all along. We’re officers, but we’re human beings. We’re susceptible to making mistakes. If there are officers who are intentionally being involved in making these mistakes, then they should be exposed.”
Maafala says a few hundred officers will soon learn how to use body cameras. Sources say officers on patrol, mostly in town, and the DUI and traffic units, will be the first to test out the cameras.
Like the Kauai Police Department, which rolled out its program in 2015, Honolulu police officers will test out cameras on their chest, collar, or eyeglasses.
Maafala says it is up to the officer to decide when the body camera will be turned on.
“Obviously, calls where shots fired, you know already, more than likely the officer upon arriving at scene will definitely turn the camera on,” Maafala said. “There’s no law that prevents the officer from recording if they’re responding from a call and performing their duties (even if someone protests).”
Maafala says if an officer doesn’t turn his or her camera on, the officer could face disciplinary action, ranging from getting written up or fired.
KHON2 asked how body cameras are working out on Kauai. We’re told there were 10 public complaints about officer conduct. All 10 of the accused officers were cleared of allegations after reviewing body camera footage.
Maafala says he looks forward to the positives the body cameras will bring to officers and the public, but expects a few kinks will need to be ironed out during the pilot program.
“We’re trained to act instinctively. We don’t want officers to be concerned with oh, should I turn it on? Should I turn it off?” he said. “ACLU has concerns of violating civil rights. That’s another concern our officers need to be aware of, that they don’t violate civil rights.”
The police union says it’s open to sharing body camera footage to the public.
The Hawaii Police Department says while it would like to have body cameras, it doesn’t have the budget.