No body cams for Hawaii PD result of lack of funding

  • Hawaii Island’s Police Department is still waiting for funding to equip its units with body cameras — and pay for the more expensive costs of video storage and redaction software. (Craig T. Kojima/Courtesy photo)

KAILUA-KONA — For at least five years, the Hawaii Police Department has been looking at ways to fund a body-worn camera program for its officers. However, with a “status-quo” budget, the department keeps coming up short.

Since Honolulu Police Department issued its first set of body-worn cameras (BWCs) to 35 officers earlier this month, Hawaii County is now the only police department in the state not to have a BWC program.


“I have stated publicly that BWCs are a priority for the department, however, it is very dependent on funding, not just the initial start-up costs, but to sustain any BWC program in the years going forward,” Hawaii County Police Chief Paul Ferreira stated in an email Monday.

According to an Associated Press article on Aug. 14, Honolulu Police Department plans to roll out dozens of BWCs every month to eventually equip all 1,200 officers with body cameras. Officials expect hundreds of officers to have cameras by the end of next year.

Kauai police started its BWC program in 2014. Maui police started providing body cameras to its officers in 2017. According to a July 22, 2017, Maui News article, the department received 125 body cameras.

Hawaii Police Maj. Samuel Thomas said Hawaii County was the first to test BWCs in the state in 2013. While the cameras are affordable, the program, storage of video from the cameras and redaction tools are costly.

“It’s a very expensive venture,” Thomas said.

During that time when the program was being tested, the county’s budget began to shrink and all departments were required to submit “status-quo” budgets — essentially budgets without any new additions.

“For a while there it looked like the state was going to provide funding but that didn’t come to fruition,” Thomas said.

This has not stopped the department from thinking outside the box. Thomas said police have applied for at least four grants since 2013 in hopes of getting the BWC program funded. However, those grants were not awarded.

Ferreira added the department has done research into various other grants that are available for start-up funds to acquire BWC equipment and storage.

“However, the department would still need to provide partial funding as well as funding for additional personnel to maintain the program, which has not been available due to the economic situation in the County,” the chief added.

Last year, the major said the BWC program would cost the county $400,000 a year to run.

“But storage is more costly. Redaction is more costly,” Thomas said. “That’s not a realistic amount of money.”

On top of that, he said, the department would need to hire a minimum of three people just to run the program.

“We don’t have a bunch of extra people we can assign to that at this juncture,” Thomas said.

Aside from salaries and wages, Thomas said, the 2018-19 fiscal year budget was cut by 5 to 7 percent from last year’s budget. Any additional items, such as the BWC program was submitted as a supplemental budget request, however, funds were not available.

“I should note that ahead of the BWC request, our first and foremost priority for our budget needs has been for additional personnel for our patrol divisions, beginning with supervisory personnel,” Ferreira said.


In the department’s supplemental budget request it asks for funding of 300 cameras that would cover all its uniformed patrol officers, traffic enforcement units, and specialized unit officers.

“The cameras would be still another tool for the officers to aid in conducting criminal investigations and seeking criminal prosecutions,” Ferreira said. “The recordings would be a source of evidence in criminal proceedings and/or used in administrative investigations to substantiate or refute allegations of misconduct.”

  1. Big ideas August 26, 2018 9:07 am

    Good thing we have a County band…spending money where we don’t need it ….crappy priorities.

    1. Bob August 27, 2018 9:07 am

      County Band is composed mostly of volunteers (unpaid). A number of the musicians are professional players (retired from symphony orchestras, etc.). The band performs for all forms of community affairs, i.e. free monthly concerts for the public, parades, Veterans Day and Memorial Day services at Veterans Cemetery, holiday concerts for nursing and retirement homes (two in Kona) and almost every other “whatever day” celebration that occurs. The band also supports the local music program at public schools. Keeping students in the music department raises the likelihood they will remain in school and continue higher education once they graduate. This band is by far the best value for the dollar that the county government gets and the public doesn’t even realize its value. Were the county to pay for such services at a competitive rate, the cost would be prohibitive.

      1. KonaLife August 28, 2018 10:09 am

        It’s hard to find the full budget for the band, but the County does have a Band Director job listing which shows a salary of $60k to $88k with full union benefits, which would increase the cost to $100K or so, just for the Director.

        I think what Big Ideas is trying to say, that in these times of two natural disasters, the inability of our County to issue a building permits in six months (or longer), get Certificates of Occupancy issued quickly, and, yes, provide our police officers and community with transparency with body cams, the Band should be unfunded until we get other priorities straight. It can continue as a volunteer group or better yet, seek funding from community members, businesses and other organizations.

        The 16 performances (not including the “whatever day” ones you note) cost us $6,250 each just for the pro-rata share of the Director’s salary. If the County Band has a budget of twice that of the Director’s salary – $200,000 or so, that would mean each performance was costing the County about $13,000.

        1. Bob August 28, 2018 2:29 pm

          That is not for the West Hawaii Band. The director is an assistant and is part time. I have no idea of how many concerts the East side band gives, but that is in addition to the ones mentioned. Your problem is with the East side and not with the orphans on the Kona side.Don’t complain if you don’t know the facts. By the way, do you go to the Memorial Day and Veterans Day Services?

          1. KonaLife August 28, 2018 4:46 pm

            The funding for both bands come from the County. If the $100k position is for the County Band (and not the West Hawaii County Band), so be it. (You used County Band in your first post, hence the confusion.) It’s all tax payer money. The Director’s job description, salary and benefits are listed on the County website. Those are facts, whether you like them or not.

            Let’s suppose the County Band does 2 events a month, 24 a year. If there is no budget other than the Director’s salary, that’s over $4,000 an event. If the budget is twice the Director’s salary ($200,000) that’s $8,000 per event; three times the Director’s salary ($300,000) and that’s $12,000 per event. Even if they do 4 events a month at the $300,000 budget, it’s still $6,000 per event.

            If you would like to share the West Hawaii Band’s funding, the community can judge whether or not that is a good use of the County budget, but in all honesty, the County Band seems to a luxury at our times of financial distress.

            My whole point is that the County Band is very expensive and when our County government is not able to even take care of a multitude a fundamental problems like police cameras, which will benefit the police and prosecutors, issuing building permits expeditiously, or dealing with the homeless problem, we need to take a look at what we need and what we want. Perhaps now is the time to focus on needs instead of wants.

            Both bands can also secure for private funding, the same as our performing arts theaters, symphonies, choral groups, dance groups and many others. Why can’t the County Bands work toward self-sufficiency, too?

            And, no, I have not attended the West Hawaii Band’s Memorial Day services. Please don’t be offended, but I’ve seen them at parades and the Palace, and I just don’t find it that enjoyable. But that’s just my taste in music, and I am willing to stipulate that many people do enjoy the Bands.

            I think we need to look at everything, and if were up to me, the Bands’ funding would be one of the things I would look at, especially the part about (private) self-funding, something many other community performing groups do.

          2. Bob August 28, 2018 5:40 pm

            It’s all Park budget. Lets close the pools and fire the life guards on the beach. Now you’re talking real money.

          3. KonaLife August 29, 2018 7:54 am

            The County of Hawaii bands are funded at $291,629/year, of which $40,272 is for the West Hawaii Band (County budget). If, combined, they do 50 events a year, that’s $6,000/event.This amount would cover 3/4 of the cost cited in the article for equipping our police officers with cameras. Could the bands work toward self-funding with sponsorships and paid events? Perhaps the County Band could function on the same budget of the West Hawaii Band? $250,000 for the County Band?

      2. Big ideas August 29, 2018 8:04 am

        Mostly – but we still pay expenses and some lifetime pensions….nothing a hired DJ couldn’t perform. It’s all about priorities….and this shouldn’t come at the expense of helping schools.

  2. Pest Outwest August 26, 2018 6:14 pm

    Aw come on, we’re made to order for Live PD. First off, it’s broad daylight given the time zones, and then you’ve got all that Hawaii Five-O rep going for you, and in a rural county, like Nye in Nevada, weird strangers living on the edge of society. And, plenty of crime, meth, weed, heroin, car thefts, burglaries. It goes without saying you’d run the crew south of Hilo. Seedy crime in a tropical paradise, rugged tattooed islander cops, it’s a can’t miss. But you gotta have the body cams for the spin-off cam show, or they’ll just deal with Oahu instead.

    1. ypupule August 30, 2018 9:43 am

      They had a COPS Hawaii spinoff for a while, think it was based on Maui. Was kinda boring — even Dog Chapman’s Maui-based were more exciting. Heard that Honolulu won’t allow such shows (with C&C cops) for fear that it would be detrimental to the crime-free, paradisiacal image the tourist industry would like to portray. Think the Big Island would be best in terms of action and drama anyway, lol.

      Even just listening to County police/fire/ambulance radio chatter on via the Broadcastify site (for free) can be mildly entertaining. Sometimes I just leave it on in the background while I’m working on other stuff. You might even hear some of your friends/relatives being mentioned, lol.

  3. joedriver August 26, 2018 9:37 pm

    Start ticketing speeders they alone can cover the costs

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