EXCLUSIVE: Amid dispute with union, Kauai police release body cam video that exonerates officer

EXCLUSIVE: Amid dispute with union, Kauai police release body cam video that exonerates officer
Published: Nov. 24, 2015 at 10:15 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2015 at 4:06 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kauai police have released an officer's body camera video that cleared him of wrongdoing in what could have been a lengthy internal affairs investigation.

The video was taken on October 13, 2014, when Kauai police were testing body cams.

Kauai Police Officer Hanson Hsu pulled over a man, after a report that he was involved in an earlier domestic dispute and theft.  Hsu is wearing the device and notifies the man several times that the event is being recorded.

On the video, the woman who called 911 admits to lying to a dispatcher about the domestic dispute allegation, and said she really just wanted her purse back. The purse was in the vehicle the man was driving.

Police seized the vehicle, which agitated the woman. Turns out, police say they found drugs inside. That case is pending.

But days later, the man who was pulled over accused Hsu of violating department policies. It was his body cam video that quickly squashed what could have been a long internal affairs investigation. And KPD went after the man for making a false police complaint.

"We want people to know, that if they make false reports like this, they won't get away with it," says KPD Chief Darryl Perry.

Now, a year after that incident, Perry is ready to equip all of his officers with body cams. But the police union, SHOPO, says the rollout is premature.

"For some odd reason this seems like a hot button issue," says SHOPO President Tenari Maafala, "Chief Perry wants to rush it, I don't know if it's an agreement he made with the vendors, that came with the camera or whatever the case might be."

Maafala says the union supports body cams but adds there are more details of the policy that need to be hammered out before the cameras are issued.

The union believes it falls under 'mutual consent', which requires union approval.

"Anything that affects salaries, wages and work conditions, that has to be mutually agreed upon with the union," Maafala says.

But Perry calls it a "meet and confer" issue, saying the department has discretion over items that have to do with technology.

SHOPO is sending a team to Kauai to meet with the chief on Wednesday. Maafala was supposed to be part of that group, but has now decided to skip the meeting and send others because Perry says he won't wait any longer.

"I'm not going to go up there tomorrow, because of his position," says Maafala, "He's already made it clear."

Perry wants the officers to begin using the cameras in December, with or without the union's backing.

"That's not an area that's negotiable," says Perry, "We've looked at this program for over two years."  And Perry says they have made 95 percent of the changes SHOPO requested to the policy already, "The way it's written now addresses all the issues SHOPO has or had."

Neither side is backing down; SHOPO says the union is prepared to file a prohibited practice complaint if KPD hits the record button without their approval.

Maui police and Hawaii County police have also already done pilot projects to test body cams. And both departments are looking at purchasing them.

The Honolulu Police Department is the only one in the state that hasn't tested the devices. The city council has already approved funding for body cameras but it's unclear if HPD has even asked for that money.

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