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New Hampshire Rejects Body Cameras for Local, County Police

In a vote along party lines, the state Senate rejected $20 million in matching grants to equip local and county police agencies with body and/or dashboard cameras, with Republicans claiming the bill was premature and open-ended.

(TNS) — Declaring it too premature and open-ended, the Republican-led State Senate Thursday rejected $20 million in matching grants for all local and county police agencies to obtain body and/or dashboard cameras.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire and New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police had endorsed this legislation to come from federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars at first if they were available.

The bill's prime sponsor, Sen. Jay Kahn, D- Keene, warned public safety advocates would be watching if the Senate rejected the measure (SB 387).

"This is going to be on scorecards and it's going to be left to the public to decide how we are supporting law enforcement in this room," Kahn said.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Gary Daniels, R- Milford, said state taxpayers would be stuck with the bill if ARPA didn't allow the expense.

The ARPA law generally was crafted to support one-time or replacement spending and Kahn's bill would provide reimbursement for up to five years.

"This also isn't fair to the local departments that have already done this on their own," Daniels said.

The Senate killed the bill, 13-9, with all GOP senators against and all Democrats for it.

Kahn said if given the chance he was going to trim the expense in half to $11.5 million and let police agencies with body cams to get their own grants to buy more cutting-edge equipment.

LEACT Commission Made This A Priority

The governor's hand-picked Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency Commission had recommended a fund to help local and county law enforcement statewide to acquire this technology.

The current state budget created a $1 million account to get this effort started.

While Manchester and several other police agencies have bought cameras for local officers, none has tapped the $1 million fund because rules for it were only recently completed.

"I really like this idea but wouldn't it make sense to wait for a new budget (in 2023) and take care of it then," asked Sen. Denise Ricciardi, R- Bedford.

Last August, the Executive Council approved a $3.4 million contract to order body cameras for State Police officers and a storage system for the footage so it can be used as evidence in criminal cases.

Utility Associates Inc., a Georgia-based company, was chosen for five years to lease cameras to the state.

(c)2022 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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