EXCLUSIVE: Police union in dispute with Kauai over officers' bo - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: Police union in dispute with Kauai over officers' body cameras

File Image File Image
File Image File Image
File Image File Image
LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Just a few weeks before the Kauai Police Department plans to be the first in the state to begin widespread use of body cameras on patrol officers, the police union is threatening to file a complaint with the state Labor Board because KPD is not allowing the union to have final approval of the body cam policy.

The face-off is a significant test to see how the politically powerful police union will deal with body cams, which will soon start being used in Maui County and on the Big Island as well. There are no plans in place for the Honolulu Police Department to use body cams.

Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry said his department has consulted with the union for months and made numerous changes to its policy but it's time to start using body cams.

Kauai police officers have been testing body cameras that attach to eye-wear since late last year and Perry plans to start using them with all patrol officers in the middle of next month. Officers were trained on the new gear Oct. 12 through 15.

But the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the statewide police union known as SHOPO, said unless it's allowed to approve of the body cam policy before they go into widespread use, the county will violate its contract and SHOPO will file a complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

"We've always been in support of the camera. But we just want to address the concerns of other jurisdictions on the mainland that we've learned from that have already implemented the camera protocols, that we want to make sure that we're in alignment and we learn from their challenges," said Tenari Maafala, SHOPO president.

Perry said, "We want, and the majority of the officers and their (SHOPO’s) members want the body-worn cameras. But SHOPO for some reason is putting this roadblock in front of us."

Perry said the county is following the same procedure -- called for in the contract -- it has with other changes in police gear such as new firearms, uniforms and Taser guns. The county has met with the union, gone over its proposed policy with them, and made many changes based on the union's concerns, Perry said.

“The contract doesn't require SHOPO's approval for us to move forward. All we want to make sure is that SHOPO has input," Perry said.

Perry said KPD has made 95 percent of the recommended changes to the body cam policy that the union called for and is working on its ninth draft of the policy, so “we feel that we've been an agency who is open and willing to look at other points of view.”

But Maafala said, "If it's 95 percent, it's not complete. There's still five percent that we need to address. That five percent we haven't gotten back from Kauai that we can review and render an official rebuttal to what he's saying."

Perry countered, though, "That five percent is relatively minor. It talks about activation, when the officers can turn it on or can't turn it on."

SHOPO had previously expressed concerns about the storage of information, privacy rights, preservation of the information and request for video footage, training and the review of body cam videos, Perry said, most of which the county has addressed in changes to its policy.

Kauai is spending $176,715 for 105 cameras, related gear and data storage for the first year and another $124,740 a year after that to store the data as well and get new cameras two and five years from now, Perry said.

“I believe the cost of the entire package will more than off-set the cost of doing internal investigations coupled with deterring frivolous complaints and law suits based on bogus claims against our officers,” Perry said.

"We're in the support of the cameras,” Maafala, who’s been president of the police union for 14 years, said. “It's a benefit for our officers. And we told our officers, yes there was some reluctantcy, but we told them, 'Hey, look, the public is asking for it. It's not like we're giving in to public perception, because it's a rightful concern."

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly