With many LEACT policies in place, Merrimack Sheriff and Concord Police look ahead to body cams, accreditation

  • Merrimack County Sheriff David Croft at the department headquarters in Boscawen. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood outside the police headquarters on Green Street in downtown Concord in May 2020.

  • Merrimack County Sheriff David Croft at the department headquarters in Boscaswen. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Merrimack County Sheriff David Croft monitors the 911 call center at the headquarters in Boscaswen. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Merrimack County Sheriff David Croft at the department headquarters in Boscaswen. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Merrimack County Sheriff David Croft inside the sallyport with one of the vans used for transporting suspects to courts around the area. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • An temporary holding cell is seen at the Concord City Police Department on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood outside the police headquarters on Green Street in downtown Concord on Thursday, May 21, 2020. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 6/11/2022 12:39:00 PM

Having implemented most of a state commission’s 2020 recommendations for law enforcement reforms, the Concord Police Department and the Merrimack County Sheriff’s Office are still working towards national accreditation and obtaining body cameras for their departments. 

In 2020, Gov. Chris Sununu convened the Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency, known as LEACT, in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The commission’s recommendations ranged from increased training requirements to a focus on community policing.

Sununu announced earlier this month that the New Hampshire State Police had outfitted all of its 260 patrol cruisers with front-facing and backseat cameras. All but one state police troop had been trained and outfitted with body-worn cameras, and the remaining field troop will be trained this month, according to State Police public information officer Amber Lagace.

On June 1, the Executive Council approved $720,000 in matching funds for 29 local police departments to buy body-worn and dashboard cameras, including the Bow and Allenstown police departments.

Neither the Concord Police Department nor the Merrimack County Sheriff is among those grant recipients.

Chief Brad Osgood said Concord did not apply because the state matching grant is capped at $50,000. Osgood said that getting body and dashboard cameras would require likely hiring someone to run the video program. Typically, body-worn camera vendors require five-year contracts, he said.

Concord’s capital improvement program lays out $470,000 for the purchase of body-worn and car video cameras in fiscal year 2024, with $80,000 each of the following four years.

“I wouldn’t apply for a grant when I know I’m only going get a maximum of $50,000 unless I have the green light to actually embark on that program,” Osgood said.

City council approval is required before the department can apply for grants, and Osgood said that if the council approved that funding, the prosecutor’s office would likely need an additional lawyer to review video footage. The department tested one body camera product in 2020, and may test other camera vendors this coming fall.

Merrimack County Sheriff David Croft said also said that a one-time payment of $50,000 from the state would be insufficient to fund a camera program, which would require ongoing data storage and staff to sift through video footage. 

“I’m a big body camera guy,” Croft said. “Any bogus allegation, we can dispel it immediately, or if it’s a true allegation, we can address it immediately.”

He cited cost as the main obstacle to adding body cameras, but also said some of the legal requirements and processes were still fuzzy, including how long departments would need to maintain video under New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law. 

“Kind of like when they come out with a new car, I want them to work out the bugs before I jump into it. I forsee it happening in the future here, but it’s not gonna be this year,” Croft said.

The issues of cost, legal requirements, related policies and data storage have been worked out by other New Hampshire police departments years ago, including in nearby Weare, which began using body work cameras in 2014.

Another LEACT recommendation called for law enforcement agencies to collect demographic data for arrests as well as citations and stops. Last year, a section of a bill that would have included race on New Hampshire driver’s licenses was removed in the state Senate.

Osgood said the Concord Police Department doesn’t consistently collect racial demographic data and was looking to the state to make that information more uniform. 

“The only way around it is to guess or ask,” Osgood said. “We haven’t explored that opportunity or avenue yet. It’s easier if it’s built into the license.”

Merrimack County Sheriff David Croft said his office collects that kind of data when deputies write tickets, but that he does not break down stops by race. 

“It's certainly in our computer system – it’s there,” Croft said. “We've always collected it. It's available, but I don't break it down.”

Accreditation

Another LEACT recommendation suggests that local departments seek national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, known as CALEA. The New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council is also in the process of developing a state-level accreditation, which New Hampshire has had in the past. 

“Accreditation is such an important piece of the pie when it comes to law enforcement because it puts everybody in a more professional position,” Croft said. “But it also gets everybody on the same page, and we're doing the same thing. So if we leave Boscawen and we go to Concord, everything's the same.”

Croft said that state accreditation would be more attainable for his department and many others than CALEA. “Once it's up and running, and all the t's are crossed, and the i's are dotted, my office is definitely going to jump on board and start that process,” Croft said. He said that receiving and maintaining CALEA would require significant spending and hiring at least two extra staff in his office, which currently employs about 70 civilian workers and sworn officers. 

Osgood said that he believes Concord would be well established to receive that state accreditation and that he would still want the department to work towards CALEA, which he called “the gold standard of accreditation.”

“Police departments with national accreditation fare much better in civil litigation,” Osgood said in a city council meeting on May 2. “I think the capital city, we should be able to achieve that.” 

The main obstacle to national accreditation for Concord is the department’s police station, which would not meet CALEA requirements as it exists today. 

A space analysis by H.L. Turner Group presented to Concord City Council in May found that Concord’s police station, built in 1975, lacks enough space for the department’s current functions and potential future growth. The women’s locker room, the computer crimes office and the public lobby are all too small, the study found. 

One aspect of the police headquarters the Turner Group described as creating “hazardous situation” was the long route through the station that detainees must take from the sallyport past the mechanic’s workspace, a first-floor interview room and the records office all the way to a booking cell in the building’s basement. 

“That’s quite a journey, and a lot can happen from the car to the booking room,” Osgood said in an interview. 

The report identified three potential new locations for the police department: a city-owned property on Terrill Park Drive, 161 North State Street across from the Concord Fire Communications Center and a lot on 108 Old Turnpike road owned by Banks Chevrolet. 

Concord’s capital improvement program includes future funding to either renovate the existing police headquarters or build a new one, with $2.5 million in general fund bonds set aside for design in fiscal year 2026 and $25 million for construction in 2027.


Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.



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