As the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office scrambles to implement a body camera program for its deputies, Sheriff Eli Rivera on Wednesday asked county commissioners to consider budgeting for a more expensive system after finding out that ‘it had additional advantages.
Originally, the county’s plan was to purchase an Axon body camera system for around $ 54,000, Rivera said at the regular commissioners meeting, but after presenting that figure to county officials, Rivera said that his department had learned of the existence of another system which included a certain number of security. features and amenities such as communication and file sharing easier. This system, he said, would cost the county $ 95,000 over a five-year period and is manufactured by Georgia-based BodyWorn.
“We realized that while it might cost a bit more, the capabilities of the body-worn camera system far exceeded my expectations,” Rivera said at Wednesday’s meeting, accessed remotely by The Sentinel, ” and that takes the security officer to a different level.
In the first year, the cost of the system – which includes a dozen cameras, data storage, and other start-up expenses – would be $ 38,000. The cost in each of the following four years would be $ 14,250.
However, the County of Cheshire is providing a 50% state grant for the initiative, which would mean that the system would cost the county just $ 19,000 in the first year and just over $ 7,000 over the four. following years. The funding follows a series of recommendations from a State Police Accountability Commission – established following the death of George Floyd in May 2020 at the hands of officers from the Minneapolis – New Hampshire Police Department made funds available to help law enforcement purchase body cameras.
Rivera said the benefits of the more expensive system are significant. He said it would be a cellular system, which allows wireless, real-time communication between cameras and the sheriff’s office while MPs are at the scene of the incidents. The cameras would also link to the county dispatch system as well as other police departments using the same technology and would allow the cameras to automatically turn on when a deputy answers a call identified as posing a potential risk.
âIf this is an address that we have reported in our computer system, the camera will actually interact with the dispatch system and turn it on,â Rivera said.
The system would also essentially turn police cars into internet hotspots and allow the department to easily install on-board cameras later if it so chooses. Rivera said he hopes the body-worn cameras will be operational by the summer.
He said the more expensive system, unlike the system previously considered, integrates the cameras directly into an MP’s uniform, while the less expensive system uses clip-on cameras. He said a plate slightly larger than a cell phone would be placed under the shirt of the uniform, which would better hold the camera in place.
âDuring the protest, they showed us several videos of cameras falling, and all you get is the sidewalk, the sky, the bushes and just hear the officers,â Rivera said, adding that the system most expensive does not carry the same risks. âYou basically have to rip the uniform off to make it come off. So this is an important feature that caught our attention.
Advocates for the use of body cameras say that by recording interactions between police and civilians, cameras help tackle misconduct and hold bad actors accountable – although research does not indicate whether they reduce the use of force by law enforcement officials.
In a presentation to Commissioners last month, Deputy Chief Todd Faulkner, who was previously Chief Constable in Hinsdale and involved in that department’s body camera deployment in 2014, said Hinsdale officers had turned improved when they knew their actions were being recorded.
“When I implemented the body cameras program in Hinsdale, I was able to measure and see better quality of law enforcement because they were being monitored,” he said at the time. . âI’m not saying they were doing it wrong; they were just more careful and they chose their words better. And sometimes the just way you present your words can prevent an incident from getting worse. “
He said a 2017 Pew Research Center study found that 93% of people support the use of body cameras by police officers, and 66% of people think police are likely to behave better when she is in front of the camera. However, Faulkner also noted that there were a few negatives to the project, including its cost, additional responsibilities for existing staff, and a greater influx of right-to-know requests looking for body camera images.
Keene is also in the process of implementing a body camera program. Police chief Steven Russo said in August he hoped to buy the cameras in the spring.
The county’s 2021 budget includes funds for body cameras that have been approved on condition that state funding is available to help offset costs. On Friday morning, commissioners will hear a final review of the county’s 2022 budget, according to county administrator Chris Coates.
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