Police body cameras trigger statewide debate

Several recent high-profile cases across the country involving the use of police force has triggered a debate in Hawaii over whether officers should wear body cameras.

A state lawmaker is calling for Honolulu Police Department (HPD) to use the technology, but told KHON2 he is disappointed with the department’s response.

State Rep. Gregg Takayama, D-Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades, chairman of the House Committee on Public Safety, told KHON2, “Frankly, I’ve been disappointed that there’s not been much interest or initiative either by the city administration or the Honolulu Police Department actually starting a pilot project to test this out.”

That is not the case on Kauai, where the chief says he is ready to buy cameras for permanent use on the island.

KHON2 also heard from the Big Island police chief, who says he also believes in cameras.

Takayama’s proposal, HB365, passed the the state House and has moved over to the state Senate for further consideration.

HPD did tell KHON2 that it is looking for grant money to fund a pilot project, but wants to see the results of the testing program by police departments on the other islands.

On Kauai, the no-cost pilot project is done and the chief is moving to buy 141 cameras at a cost of $134,049.

“This administration believes that transparency is very important to maintaining the trust of our citizens, and in that regard, we are always exploring better ways to enhance that relationship while maintaining the highest standards of service delivery,” said Kauai chief of police Darryl Perry. “When people know they are being recorded, they are usually on their best behavior.”

Perry went on to say that “we expect fewer use of force and other complaints, better conviction rates in court, and, as mentioned earlier, improved community relations.”

On the Big Island, a no-cost pilot project is ongoing with 12 cameras shared between traffic enforcement and patrol officers in both Hilo and Kona. Big Island Police Chief Harry Kubojiri also believes in body cameras.

“It is an equipment that will help increase transparency, especially when used in areas that are high-profile cases, such as those that have been occurring across the nation,” said Kubojiri.

While HPD and the police union, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), also support the intent of the program, they both share similar concerns.

“There truly are no details as far as the storage of evidence of the videos on the camera that is taken. That’s a huge cost,” said Tenari Maafala, SHOPO president. “The flip side to that, which could be a negative, is invasion of privacy, albeit the victim or suspect.”

KHON2 also reached out to the Maui Police Department, but is still awaiting a response.

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