MANCHESTER — As city police seriously consider adopting body cameras, they’re looking at a potential price tag of $900,000, according to Police Chief Carlo Capano.
“I’m an advocate for body cameras,” Capano told members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen last Tuesday, just days after a video showing the use of police force and the arrest of four people outside the Bonfire Restaurant & Country Bar in downtown Manchester was posted on social media.
“We’ve looked at different vendors the past year or so,” the chief added. “They’ve been coming in from $250,000 up to $900,000 — and I cringe to say it, but the $900,000 is the one we liked best. It offered the most.”
Mayor Joyce Craig said the use of force and subsequent arrests are under review after a video of the Nov. 18 incident appearing on social media and media websites drew comments from city officials and residents. The video shows police striking and using a stun gun on two people as they struggle during an arrest.
A crowd watches, and some tell police they will end up in jail for their actions. Both police officers and suspects shout profanities during the struggle.
On Tuesday, Alderman Keith Hirschmann of Ward 12 made a motion supporting the use of body cameras by city police, and referring the matter to committee to discuss possible funding sources. That’s when Capano told board members he has already had preliminary discussions with at least two vendors, with a meeting scheduled with a third vendor.
Craig refused to accept Hirschmann’s motion, saying the issue was already being reviewed.
“Why wouldn’t you send it to CIP?” asked Hirschmann. “Why are we waiting? I really want the chief walking away with the support of the board on this.”
“We’re not ready to bring this to committee yet,” said Craig. “He’s not ready. There’s a process we’re following — we’re working on it.”
Alderman At-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur suggested providing body cameras for officers working certain shifts or in specific locations, to help drive down the cost.
“The only ones that should have to wear the cameras should be the night shift, the downtown shift, and any that are working the bars on details,” said Levasseur. “Especially the ones that work at night; they seem to come under the most scrutiny.”
“With all due respect, we should let him (Capano) decide who should be wearing them,” said Craig. “Chief Capano is working on this; there’s no need for a motion.”
“We would have to go out to bid on this,” said Capano. “Given the number of officers we have, we would get a lot of interest.”
“I want to protect these police officers, with what they have to go through,” said Levasseur. “I see these people using these videos on social media. They start them at the point when police officers are putting someone on the ground, not showing what precipitated the issue.”
As of two years ago, 10 police departments in the state had body cameras. Weare and Dunbarton have been using cameras for some time.
The two largest law enforcement agencies — the Manchester police department and state police — do not use body cameras.
Portsmouth is considering adding cameras, while Hanover police started using them last summer. Claremont police are bringing them online as well.
The effect that body cameras have on policing is being studied.
A study by The Lab @ DC, found the use of body cameras did not result in large-scale shifts in police behavior or reductions in the use of force or complaints.
In reviewing 2,224 Metropolitan Police Department officers in Washington, D.C. — some of whom wear body cameras — over the course of 18 months the study found the presence of body cameras may have increased reports of use of force from police officers, while the amount of use of force remains the same.
Cameras also had no impact on general police activity, such as writing tickets, making arrests and responding to calls, the study found.