Body-cam program of KPD reviewed

LIHU‘E — In 2019, the Kaua‘i Police Department received 21 complaints against officers.

Fifteen of these officers had activated, body-worn cameras. Of these, 13 were cleared using camera footage alone.

KPD Police Chief Todd Raybuck and Capt. Elliott Ke shared these statistics as part of a report underscoring the department’s Axon Body Camera Officer Safety Plans and associated technologies with the Kaua‘i County Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee.

In 2015, KPD became the first police department in the state to implement body-worn cameras. As such, the department had to go through developing policies, procedures and protocols during the initial contract period.

The new contract is about $1,518,650 for a five-year, multi-term contract to purchase the equipment, unlimited device storage and auto tagging software, according to a memo from Ke to the council requesting a transfer of funds.

Committee Chair Felicia Cowden requested the report last month after the KPD requested the council approve a transfer of unexpended salaries for the first year of funding estimated at about $439,781.

Raybuck, a former captain on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, came to Kaua‘i with body-worn-camera experience. A report of that department’s body-worn-camera usage found that there were fewer complaints of misconduct and fewer resources spent on investigations into these matters. This is an estimated savings of about $4,600 per user per year.

The department also has random audits of body-camera footage, where one officer is chosen at random to review department footage. The officer will watch about 10 minutes of video.

“If there is something that pops up that is obviously not within policy, they continue the review and they write a report and address it accordingly,” Ke said. In cases where there are no offenses to police, the officer will move on.

Of 1,410 random audits, Ke relayed that discrepancies are “really low,” with corrective actions like retraining and counseling happening infrequently. In only one case was disciplinary action taken.

The benefits are not just to the department. Between 2016 and now, KPD has shared over 16,000 videos with the county’s Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, relating to over 3,000 cases.

This digital evidence, Ke said, is what courts and juries want to see, and it’s critical the department is able to provide this service.

“What you get from the body camera itself is raw, uncut video of what’s happening at the time, from the viewpoint of the camera,” Ke said.

“What you often see in the media is a 30-second clip of an incident which doesn’t really reflect the start to end of an incident.

“The body camera and access to that video is critical to protect the community, to protect community members, to protect the department and the county itself,” Ke said.

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

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