Teamsters want to review policy on use of police-worn video cameras in Gilford
By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — The Teamsters Union representing the town's police officers have requested the town delay its use of body cameras until it has time to review the operating policy and possibly renegotiate the existing contract.
The union's position, as explained in a letter dated Sept. 30, is that the use of body cameras represents "a change in our Union members' working conditions that directly affects them all..."
"So kindly cease and desist the implementation and advise us when and where you'd be ready, willing and able to negotiate the new cameras with us," wrote Teamsters Local 633 Business Agent Kevin Foley.
The decision to equip police officers with body cameras was made last year and was approved by the Gilford Board of Selectmen. According to Town Administrator Scott Dunn, this year's budget contained the first year's payment of $36,401. He said balance of the five-year purchase agreement with Taser, Inc. will be paid in four increments of $21,384 over the next four years. He said the package included 18 new Tasers, 18 body cameras, a training package and electronic storage costs.
Dunn said there is currently no official standard operating procedure for their use by Gilford Police officers. He said Chief Anthony Bean Burpee has drafted one and it has been circulated throughout his department so he can get some feedback from his officers before finalizing it.
William Cahill, who represents the Teamsters as a public sector consultant, said the union is in favor of body cameras but only wants to review and discuss the operating policy with Bean Burpee before it officially goes into effect.
He said the policy was distributed to the rank and file of the union with an effective date of Oct. 1. Cahill said it seemed like it was kind of a quick turnaround and just want to discuss it with management before it goes into effect.
Cahill said that the union and its Gilford membership have a great working relationship with Bean Burpee and they are not trying to be adversarial or confrontational, unlike some of the recent battles over body cameras in Boston.
In September, The Boston Globe reported that a local judge denied a request from the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association that would have allowed them to not participate in the Boston Police's body camera trial program in which 100 police officers would be equipped with body cameras.
Judge Douglas Wilkins ruled that because the union sent letters to its membership encouraging "nobody" to volunteer, he said much of their protest against body cameras was "self-inflicted."
The Globe also said Wilkins cited a the 1962 Commissioners Statute that says the police commissioner can determine what uniforms officers wear, what weapons they are issued and how they can be used.
Dunn said Tuesday that he is taking a similar approach, saying that the body cameras will be part of a Gilford Police officer's uniform, which is determined by the chief.
He said the training for body camera usage is scheduled for the end of October and that is what the Teamster's hope to stop, although Cahill denies this and says the union only wants a discussion.
As for right now, Dunn said the selectmen have been made aware of the request from the Teamsters and their desire to negotiate their use, but have not met to discuss it. He added that all union negotiations are private.
He said for the time being, he and Bean Burpee have responded to the Teamsters by asking them what specific concerns the union has.
"We're surprised by this," said Dunn. "In our opinion, the use of body cameras is a win-win."
He went on to say that Gilford has extraordinary police officers and they are very good about the use of force so cameras will protect them against false claims.
Dunn said the citizenry benefits by being able to see how Gilford officers reacts in different situations and if they have acted appropriately, professionally and within standard operating procedures.
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