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Claremont Police To Get Cameras



Valley News Correspondent
Thursday, June 21, 2018

Claremont — Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase told the city’s Police Commission on Wednesday he expects the department will have officers wearing body cameras and cruisers with cameras by early fall.

Chase told the three-member commission the next step before the “body-worn” cameras can become operational is to write department policies that meet the requirements under the state law that went into effect in January 2017.

“I think it would be shortsighted on our part if we don’t look at body cameras,” Chase said. “I think we need this for the Claremont Police Department.”

Chase said $43,000 was budgeted last year for cameras for seven cruisers, but because new cruisers are being delivered next month, it did not make sense to install the cameras only to have to pay to reinstall them on the new fleet. Once the new cruisers arrive, they will be outfitted with cameras, he said.

Chase worried that if he waited to purchase body cameras, the price may increase and the money might not be available through the budgeting process in a couple of years.

“If we are the only department that doesn’t have them, we are going to be asked why,” the chief said, adding that Charlestown officers have them.

In response, the City Council recently voted to reauthorize the $43,000 as encumbered funds for the cruiser cameras and also approved about $26,000 from a budget surplus for body cameras. Chase said he wants to order 16 to 18 cameras, which easily would outfit all officers on a shift, even when extra officers are needed for events, and allow for cameras to be taken out of service for recharging. Claremont has a 25-person police department.

The cost to buy both types of cameras together is lower than if they were purchased separately, and they can be integrated to work together.

“When an officer activates the blue lights, both cameras are activated,” Claremont Police Capt. Alex Lee told the commission.

The next step is for Chase to draft department policies on the use of body cameras based on state law and the standards of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. He said there are policies already written and that they would only need to be adapted for the Claremont department.

Some of the issues that need to be addressed in the policies include who can access the videos, how long the videos must be kept and right-to-know requests from the public.

Chase said that while he has complete “faith” in the conduct of his officers, he recognizes there is a growing call among the public for police to have body cameras.

“We are at the point we want it to happen,” Chase said. “Without body cameras or digital evidence, there will always be the question, ‘did this really happen?’ ”

The shooting of Cody LaFont by former Claremont police officer Ian Kibbe is one example of how a body camera could have provided additional evidence.

Kibbe, who in an unrelated case has been charged with falsifying evidence reports stemming for the search of a suspect’s apartment in February, shot LaFont outside the victim’s Congress Street home in September 2016. Kibbe claimed LaFont pointed a gun at him and would not comply with his demands to drop the weapon. The shooting was determined to be justified by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, but after Kibbe was charged earlier this year, the Attorney General’s Office said it would reopen the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting of LaFont.

Chase said he has spoken with public defenders and criminal defense lawyers and they support the use of cameras.

“Most attorneys would love to see us have them,” the chief said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.