Smile, you’re on camera

LIHUE — In a room police use for briefings, Kauai Police Department Officer Troy Sakaguchi was showing seven patrol officers how to use their brand-new body-worn cameras.

“What they recommend is that it sits right on the back of your collar,” Sakaguchi told the officers as they took the cameras out of the Taser International brand boxes. “So what you can do is put your collar up. Both ends are magnet. You’re just going to put it on and then put your collar back down.”

The 105 Axon Flex body cameras and mounts have been sitting in a KPD closet for several months since the county unanimously approved KPD’s request to purchase them for $176,718 in June.

Sakaguchi taught the officers how to turn the cameras on, about the camera’s battery life, what the different lights on the camera mean, audio capabilities, how to angle the lens to capture the best picture and how to turn the cameras off.

The entire session lasted just under 30 minutes. The officers had previously been trained on how to use the cameras and this roll-out was more of a refresher to get them up to speed, Chief Darryl Perry told The Garden Island earlier this month.

All officers came in during their shifts and were trained as early as 6 a.m. beginning Monday morning, said county spokeswoman Sarah Blane.

By Wednesday, all 90 of KPD’s patrol units were retrained and outfitted with body-worn cameras, and were wearing them while out on patrol in Kauai, Blane said.

The department is the first in the state to implement the body cams for its officers, and it is doing without labor union support.

“This is a program that we’ve tested and vetted for over a year and we’re excited to finally begin implementation,” Perry said in a news release last week. “The Kauai Police Department is committed to creating a more transparent department and being more accountable to the community that we serve. This technology is another step in the right direction toward achieving that goal.”

The policy, which was updated at the end of November, requires that officer turn on the cameras during traffic stops, arrests, criminal investigations and other on-duty assignments.

Blane said the equipment must be charged after each shift, when recordings are uploaded and stored to a secured third-party site.

Officers do not have the ability to edit or modify the footage, she said.

During initial orientations, several officers’ camera angles were not appropriately set, which meant they were not properly recording footage.

They were told to readjust their camera angles and test them again. Officers can wear their cameras either on their collars or on their eyeglasses.

Officers have the ability to download an app called Axon Mobile, which allows them to test their camera angle and view what their footage will look like in real time.

The app does not allow them to record footage, Blane said.

Perry said the cameras are for the officers’ own protection and for the protection of the department.

The recordings for the cameras can be used in criminal proceedings or can be used to refresh an officers’ mind when they are trying to remember what happened at a traffic stop, he said.

“We’ve had a number of officer complaints,” Perry said. “Ninety percent of them turn out to be false. This will record the event. Unedited. Unvarnished.”

But not everybody is on board with KPD’s body cam roll-out.

The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers is raising questions about Kauai’s new body camera policy.

Perry said KPD and SHOPO have been trying to hash out the issue for the past few months. The difference of opinion stems from language in the labor union contract.

“First and foremost, we have always been in support of the body cams,” said SHOPO President Tenari Maafala. “The policy was never the problem. We’re fine with the policy. We agreed to it.”

Maafala said Perry is the only police chief in the state who resisted SHOPO on the labor union contract on “mutual consent” versus “meet and confer.”

Anything that affects salary, wages and work conditions falls under “mutual consent,” which requires both parties to be in agreement, Maafala said.

Anything outside of the 57 articles of the contract would be considered a “meet and confer” issue, which is what Perry is claiming the body cams should be considered, he said.

But if officers are in any way disciplined while using the body cams, then this will affect work conditions and therefore the issue is one of mutual consent that must be agreed upon by both parties, Maafala said.

But Perry disagreed, calling KPD’s policy internal. He believes KPD does not need its policy approved by SHOPO.

It’s the same with other types of technology, Perry said.

“There was no problem with other technologies,” Perry said. “But with cameras, SHOPO said it has to be mutual consent.”

Even still, before he moved forward with implementing the body cams this month to his officers, Perry said he was arduously working toward a solution with SHOPO, but nothing worked.

“They have threatened us with prohibited practice complaints,” Perry said.

He said SHOPO has put out roadblocks that have pushed the roll-out back.

“The longer we debate, the longer we place our officers and the general public at risk,” Perry said earlier this month. “The majority of our officers want this.”

There is a still chance that SHOPO might file a complaint with the labor board, Blane said last week.

And Maafala said that filing a complaint with Hawaii Labor Relations Board is just standard practice, one with which Perry is familiar.

If SHOPO files complaint and the HLRB rules in SHOPO’s favor, then it’s up to Perry to agree to the contract.

That won’t mean the officers will lose their body cams, Maafala said. He added that SHOPO has always “tried to be firm” especially when it came to preserving the rights of officers, and by being firm he means no disrespect.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s at this juncture,” he said “I respect Chief Perry. But he’s the only chief of police that has chosen to take this route. I don’t know if it’s because he wants this to be his legacy.”

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Michelle Iracheta, cops and courts reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or miracheta@thegardenisland.com. Follow Michelle on Twitter @cephira

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