HPD Receives Funding for Body-Worn Cameras

October 7, 2019, 4:30 PM HST (Updated October 7, 2019, 4:34 PM)
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The Hawai‘i County Police Department has received funding to purchase approximately 300 body cameras for the department’s patrol officers.

For the past three years, the police department has included body-worn cameras in its proposed budget to the Hawai‘i County Council. The program was approved this 2019-20 fiscal year and estimated to cost about $400,000.

“The BWC (body-worn cameras) will provide officers with yet another tool in conducting investigations in providing additional video evidence as well as providing video evidence for any interactions with the community,” Hawai‘i Police Chief Paul Ferreira stated in an email Monday.

The videos, Ferreira added, will also be good tools for providing in-service training to officers in regards to responding and dealing with various situations.

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Officials don’t have an exact date when the department will receive the cameras, as the vendor hasn’t been selected yet. However, program coordinator Sgt. Travis Ing hopes to have the cameras before the end of this fiscal year.

Hawai‘i County is the last of all the counties in the state to add body cameras to the uniforms of their police officers. The police department began research and tests on some potential cameras in 2015. Without the budget to proceed, Ing said, the program ended there.

“Now that some monies have been purposed for it, we are free to actually start up and make it become a reality,” Ing said.

Kaua‘i County police officers were the first to affix the cameras to their uniforms in 2016. Maui County police officers were outfitted with body cams in 2017 and Honolulu County is currently in the process of rolling out the cameras to patrolmen and women.

The Hawai‘i Police Department has provided funding for three positions to run the program. Along with Ing, there will be one civilian IT position and another IT staff member.

Overall, the police department was granted 44 new positions, including those in the body camera program. 

Since January, there have been eight retirements — an assistant chief, one lieutenant, two detectives, three police officers and one criminalist. Currently, there are 47 sworn vacancies and 34 civilian vacancies.

Hawai‘i Police Maj. Robert Wagner said this year was an unusually good year for increases in manpower. Over the past 30 years, the department has averaged five new officers a year. However, some years they hired none.

“Previously, the budget was tight,” Wagner said. “Next year already we are being informed to cut cost for the 2020-2021 budget.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.
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