Police body cameras have long been sought by civil rights advocates in the state. (George Frey | Getty Images)
The New Hampshire Executive Council approved state funding to help 29 police departments install body camera systems Wednesday, clearing the way for departments to secure $719,646 in matching grants.
Paid for by the state’s new Body-worn and Dashboard Camera Fund, the awards are capped at $50,000 per town, and may be used for up to 50 percent of the cost of the new systems.
Amherst, Derry, Keene, Rochester, and Salem will receive the full $50,000, while New London will get $49,560 and the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office will receive $47,500.
Smaller towns have been granted funding as well. Chester will receive $2,495, Hinsdale $3,000, and Pembroke $4,511, for example.
The money must go toward the “purchase, maintenance, and replacement of body-worn and dashboard cameras and ongoing costs related to the maintenance and storage of data,” wrote Department of Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn in an informational note to the council.
After issuing a request for proposals, the state chose to contract with “BodyWorn” cameras from Utility Inc. for the equipment, in part because the cameras have “automated recording triggers” that are meant to kick in even when an officer forgets to activate the system, according to a press release issued by Gov. Chris Sununu Wednesday.
The Department of Safety opened the grant program Jan. 31; the 29 recipient departments applied by the March 15 deadline.
Police body cameras have long been sought by civil rights advocates in the state and were a key recommendation of the state’s Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency, a group of stakeholders that met in 2020 to address racial justice issues in the state in the wake of the murder of George Floyd while in police custody. Local law enforcement in New Hampshire has been slow to adopt body cameras and video storage, citing high costs.
After debate in the Legislature over how much to fund the program, lawmakers passed the Body-worn and Dashboard Camera Fund as part of the 2021 state budget.
The Executive Council approval comes as the New Hampshire State Police has also increased its use of body cameras in recent years. After years of funding impasses, lawmakers approved separate funding in 2021 for state police to acquire the cameras as well. Now, “nearly all” state law enforcement officers have been trained and outfitted with the cameras, according to the governor’s office, and 260 cruisers have been equipped with front-facing and backseat cameras.
The body cameras transfer video footage to a digital video recorder in each cruiser and are uploaded wirelessly to the storage system when the cruiser is at one of 31 “designated offload sites” across the state, according to the governor’s office. State Police is also undergoing “scenario-based” training for the new technology, the governor’s office said.
At a press conference Wednesday, Sununu said the body cameras had been a “top priority” for the Department of Safety.
“Body cams really provide transparency in our process and security in terms of what happened, the hows and whens and who was involved and all of that,” Sununu said. “And the more information the better.”
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