Attorney Loretta Sheehan Advocates Body Cams for Domestic Violence Investigations

Honolulu’s police officers should be equipped with body cams when they investigate domestic violence incidents and restraining order violations, Davis Levin Livingston attorney Loretta Sheehan told lawmakers recently.

Domestic violence cases are notoriously difficult to investigate and prosecute, and the victim may be unwilling or afraid to cooperate with authorities.

Police need to be able to record the scene of the incident and their investigation, Sheehan said. By using video, they can capture the aftermath of the event, vividly depicting things like broken glasses and overturned chairs. And a video will show whether there were witnesses or children at the scene.

Sheehan said that body cam evidence can be especially helpful when the victim is uncooperative.

Sheehan, a longtime advocate for domestic violence victims, spoke on behalf of the Domestic Violence Action Center at an informational hearing on family violence.

Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha is skeptical. He told the lawmakers that body cams are unreliable and too expensive, costing in the millions of dollars. He also expressed concern about video storage and the potential for tampering

About 1200 police departments currently have body cams distributed by Taser International. Taser officials say the cameras can be helpful in domestic violence investigations because they can record the tension, emotion and injuries immediately after the incident. And they have come down in price. Body cams are available in two styles, a pager style that costs about $399 and a lipstick-style that costs about $599.

After use, the cameras are plugged into a docking station where the video is encrypted and uploaded to a secure server.  Approved people can access the video but cannot change or delete it. Storage costs could range between $100,000 and $300,000 a year, according to local news reports.

Sheehan’s humanitarian efforts in the domestic violence field earned her the prestigious Jefferson Award in 2007.

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