Your next encounter with the police might be recorded on videotape, whether it’s on the sidewalk or in your car.
Hawaii lawmakers want to boost police accountability by purchasing body cameras for officers across the islands. Senators are also looking to put dashboard-mounted cameras on the police vehicles.
Senate Bill 199 would provide $2.7 million over the next two years to the four county police departments to purchase cameras for their officers and their vehicles, as long as the money is matched dollar-for-dollar.
If it passed, Honolulu would be eligible for $700,000 per year, Maui and Hawaii counties $250,000 each per year, and Kauai County $150,000 annually.
Police body cameras could be coming to Hawaii.
Flickr: West Midlands Police
The bill was introduced by Sen. Will Espero, one of several lawmakers pushing for police reform. Co-signers include Sens. Roz Baker, Gil Keith-Agaran, Brickwood Galuteria, Sam Slom and Laura Thielen.
A bill introduced in the House would purchase body cameras for the Honolulu Police Department. No dollar amounts have been set yet.
The proposals come amid national attention on police use of force that was sparked in large part by the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teenager killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Locally, HPD officers killed several citizens in recent years with little information released publicly about those deaths. In almost every case, HPD officials stood by the actions of the officers.
Last year, an officer was caught on surveillance video throwing a stool at a man inside a Chinatown game room and kicking him in the head. The FBI has since launched a civil rights investigation.
Law enforcement officers and civilians who are aware that they are being videotaped are more likely to behave in a calm and rational manner. With the recent incidents involving law enforcement officers and unnecessary force, the use of body-mounted video cameras and law enforcement vehicle cameras provide law enforcement officers and civilians with added security in their actions. In controversial situations, where force may need to be used, a law enforcement officer or civilian’s story may be corroborated by the video obtained through the body-mounted video camera or law enforcement vehicle camera.
The bill notes that local law enforcement spends about $2 million a year investigating citizen complaints. Cameras on officers and their vehicles could reduce those costs.
The Kauai Police Department is the only agency using body cameras now as part of a pilot program that is expected to expand this summer. Officials from the other county departments have said they are still exploring the issue.
Hearings are scheduled for both bills Thursday.
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