Police to begin wearing body-worn cameras

  • Hawaii County Deputy Police Chief Paul Ferreira addresses the crowd at the Police Week Ceremony Wednesday at the Kona Police Station. (Laura Shimabuku/West Hawaii Today)

Hawaii Island police will begin wearing body-worn cameras starting today.

The Axon Body 2 cameras will be worn first by officers in the South Hilo, Kona and Puna districts, said Hawaii Police Department Chief Paul Ferreira. The island’s remaining districts, which include North Kohala, South Kohala, Ka‘u, Hamakua and North Hilo, will follow suit with the entire island expected to be outfitted by year’s end.

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“We are enthusiastic to be able to enter a new era of technology with a tool that will assist us in making both the Community and the Department a better place to work and live in,” Ferreira said in a statement.

All uniformed patrol, community policing, and Traffic Enforcement Unit officers will be outfitted with the body worn cameras. Videos are kept for at least two years, or until a case is adjudicated.

These officers will be responsible for activating the cameras when they have contact with the public in a “law enforcement capacity,” such as during traffic stops, arrests and calls they’ve been assigned.

The law enforcement personnel are also in charge of stopping the recording once they are done with that incident and they have the discretion to turn off the camera in the event a victim requests.

The department is the last in the state to equip its officers with body cameras. Some $1.8 million in funding to purchase 340 cameras for and manage the program was approved by the Hawaii County Council in June.

Hawaii County was the first to test body cameras in 2013, even if it is the last to wear them. The Kauai Police Department was the first to implement a body-worn camera program in 2015 followed by the Maui Police Department in 2017. The Honolulu Police Department started outfitting its officers last year.

In 2019, the Kauai Police Department received 21 complaints against officers. Fifteen of those officers had activated, body-worn cameras. Of those, 13 were cleared using camera footage alone, according to a June 7 report in The Garden Island newspaper.

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Police departments moved forward with the body-worn cameras after the Hawaii Labor Relations Board ruled in 2016 against the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers in a case involving the Kauai Police Department, finding the union has no say on the policy and it is not subject to negotiation. A circuit judge confirmed that ruling.

West Hawaii Today Reporter Nancy Cook Lauer contributed to this report.

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