- Associated Press - Friday, August 21, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - While the Honolulu Police Department has not implemented a body camera program, some officers are using their own personal devices while in the field.

Officials from the State of Hawaii Police Officers Union said they support the use of video cameras, both on car dashboards and on bodies. Both devices promote transparency from the department and help protect officers from possible reprimand, KITV-TV reports (https://bit.ly/1WITfA3).

Union president Tenari Maafala said there is no official count of officers personally equipping themselves with cameras, but that it is increasingly common.

“It’s been going on and the officers have been doing it, even before it became a hot-button issue across the nation,” said Maafala. “It’s the mindset of protecting themselves, it’s our word versus those of the public that we do have to address.”

HPD spokeswoman Sarah Yoro said the department is aware that officers are using personal body cameras and that there is no official policy on how the equipment or the subsequent footage should be used.

“It is a personal choice and there is currently no policy that prohibits their use,” she said.

Without policies in place, Maafala said it is important to remind officers that the cameras are for official use, not social media.

The unregulated cameras could also create legal problems, according to criminal defense attorney Marcus Landsberg.

“By saying they’re hands off and it’s up to the officer on their own to do it, that’s a situation that might open police officers to potential charges of destruction of evidence,” said Landsberg. “What I would suggest is preservation should be the same length of time as the statute of limitations. So, if the statute of limitations is two years on a particular crime, that should be the absolute minimum which they’re required to preserve evidence for any particular case.”

HPD is looking at the possibility of equipping its officers in the future and is seeking funding for a small-scale test.

“The department is still evaluating different camera models and storage systems,” Yoro said. “At this time, no cameras have been purchased (and) the department is seeking funding for a pilot project.”

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Information from: KITV-TV, https://www.kitv.com/index.html

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