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County Council Approves 5-Year Contract for HPD’s Body Camera Program

June 17, 2020, 3:04 PM HST
* Updated June 17, 4:14 PM
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The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed rollout of body-worn cameras to patrol officers within the Hawai‘i Police Department.

On Wednesday, Hawai‘i County Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing HPD to enter into a five-year agreement with Axon Enterprise, Inc., which allows for the acquisition of body cameras and provides maintenance and cloud-based storage at the price tag of $1.8 million.

HPD’s Body Camera Program Coordinator Sgt. Travis Ing hopes to equip 340 body-worn cameras to its patrol force by August or September, but that depends on whether or not the manufacturer is able to ship equipment to the department on time.

Ing had hoped to have the cameras rolled out by the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“The pandemic didn’t help us at all,” Ing explained after the meeting. “It delayed a lot of things.”

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Council members expressed overwhelming support for the program during Wednesday’s meeting.

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“There’s a lot of community concern — I feel body cameras build accountability for both sides,” said District 5 County Councilman Matthew Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder.

District 7 County Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas said the time for the addition of cameras to HPD’s force is “incredibly poignant” considering the public’s unrest with law enforcement after the deaths of several black people at the hands of police officers reported on the mainland.

Ing agreed and is excited to launch the program.

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“Even taking away the pandemic and events that have happened in the nation, it offers the level of transparency and provides an objective view of an incident,” Ing said.

HPD is in the process of finalizing the policy on when cameras should be turned on while an officer is on duty. Generally speaking, Ing said, a patrol officer would turn it on when they respond to a call or initiate contact with a member of the public.

“If they forget to turn on a camera we’ll just have to deal with that as it happens,” Ing said. “I suspect there will be a learning curve there.”

The body camera program will be overseen by Ing as well as two civilian IT employees. Unfortunately, the sergeant explained to the council the department has only been able to fill one position.

Hawai‘i County will be the last in the state to obtain body-camera equipment, as 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 rolled out their program in October 2019.

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 past 2019-20 fiscal year.

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