Continuing transparency

LIHUE — The Kauai Police Department plans to keep its officers outfitted with body cameras.

“KPD is committed to creating a more transparent department and body cameras are another step toward achieving that goal,” said Darryl Perry, chief of police.

In December, 105 officers, including all patrol officers, were outfitted with the collar-mounted cameras.

KPD is the first department in Hawaii to implement body cameras, said Sarah Blane, county spokeswoman.

But on the Mainland, some states are passing longer video storage rules, and some law enforcement agencies are shelving the body cameras as a result of the increased costs.

For example, a law was passed in Indiana that required agencies to store the videos for at least 190 days. Under the original 30-day video storage policy, it costs the Clarksville Police Department $10,000 a year for camera maintenance and video storage. The new law, which went into effect July 1, would have raised those costs to $50,000 to $100,000 for the first year.

A Connecticut police department ended its body camera program this year, after the state increased its video storage from 60 days to 90 days.

In January, the Hawaii Senate introduced Bill No. 2411, which establishes requirements, restrictions and implementation timelines for body cameras.

According to the bill, footage from the cameras will be kept for at least three years from the date it was recorded, if the footage captures images of any use of force and events leading up to and including an arrest.

The bill is still in session. It was last discussed on April 29, and was deferred.

On Kauai, the police department pays $124,740 annually for the Officer Safety Plan, provided by Taser International, Blane said.

The Taser International Officer Safety Package includes 105 Axon Flex body worn cameras and mounts, unlimited video storage and 105 X26P Tasers, battery packs and holsters.

The plan, which rolled out in December, also includes unlimited storage for footage, Blane said.

“Since implementation, we have found body cameras to be beneficial to all, by increasing accountability for both the police department and the citizens we serve,” Perry said.

KPD requires officers turn on the cameras during traffic stops, arrests, criminal investigation and other on-duty assignments.

The Kauai County Council unanimously approved KPD’s request to purchase the Taser International Officer Safety Package in June 2015.

The package came with a price tag of $176,718, and was paid for through KPD’s Asset Forfeiture Fund.

In January, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers filed a prohibited practice complaint against the KPD, alleging that body-worn cameras were a matter of work conditions and subject to collective bargaining.

After months of litigation, the Hawaii Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of KPD, saying the department didn’t need union approval to implement the body cameras.

“We have had to overcome some challenges, such as the complaint filed by SHOPO with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, which eventually ruled in KPD’s favor,” Perry said. “As with any new initiative, we expected to hit a few speed bumps and we view these obstacles as opportunities to improve the way we use this technology.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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