By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — In a time with heightened sensitivity toward police transparency and accountability, the Gilford Police Department will become the first major department in the Lakes Region to use body cameras.
Chief Anthony Bean Burpee said the $25,000 was built into the police budget and provides each of 18 officers a replacement Taser and a Taser Axon Body Camera, which looks somewhat like a pen and can be clipped to an officer's sunglasses or lapel.
"On our end result is we feel it's important to have them on to protect the officers and the public," said Lt. Kris Kelley. "It's a transparency issue."
Bean Burpee said the department entered into an agreement with Taser for the participation in a five-year program that provides the department with new Tasers every five years and a new body camera every two-and-a-half years. He said they got a grant from Taser for $8,000 to offset the upfront costs and said the annual contract included electronic storage and insurance for the replacement costs. He said it should cost the department between $25,000 and $30,000 annually.
"We haven't had any complaints (about officer behavior)," said Bean Burpee Tuesday, but said this is a move toward greater transparency for the department as a whole and a commitment to the safety of his individual officers.
He said the next step is to complete the body camera policy and make sure it is implemented and the officers are all trained. When asked, he said the union was on board with it.
Gilford will be the first in the area to use body cameras however it is not the first department to discuss them. Belmont Lieutenant and Executive Officer Richard Mann said his department looked into a similar program but found it to be too expensive. He said all of the Belmont officers are equipped with Tasers.
Sgt. Mike Harper of the Meredith Police Department said every one of the 14 officers there has Tasers but there is no plan for the immediate future for the department to get body cameras.
About six months ago, Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams told the Police Commission there was no plan to have his officers wearing body cameras. All of the front-line police officers in Laconia are equipped with Tasers.
March 23 Editor's note: Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said his command staff are looking into various grants that would assist in providing body cameras to front-line police officers in Laconia. Adams said he personally supports body cameras but has not included them in his 2016-2017 budget request. He said cameras have been added to his short-term strategic plan. Adams, who was unavailable to comment for a story about body cameras that ran on the front page of the March 23 edition wanted his position clarified. In addition, the Tilton Police are using body cameras.
This is the type of body camera by Axon that clips to sunglasses, which Gilford police will be using. (Photo courtesy Taser International)
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