Body cameras

Keene police will launch its City Council-approved testing of body cameras and in-cruiser cameras Tuesday.

The approximately 30-day trial is aimed at analyzing the costs and benefits of using and administering the equipment — which records and uploads audio and video — on a regular basis, the Keene Police Department said in a news release Friday.

Afterward, the department will report its findings to the City Council’s Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee, and the City Council will ultimately decide whether to require the use of the cameras going forward.

Six officers, who volunteered for the job, will wear body cameras and three police cruisers will have in-car systems, provided for free by the vendor, BodyWorn. The officers have had to train on the equipment and the laws governing its use, requiring overtime costs the city estimated at $4,700 in September, when the council unanimously approved the trial.

“Our goals include enhancing transparency, resolving complaints, improving evidence collection and prosecution of cases, and improv[ing] our training through training tools created by past encounters,” the news release said. “We will also continuously evaluate the program in order to study the most productive and efficient methods of providing police services to our Community. Our officers do amazing work day in and day out, and we have confidence that this will be captured in the footage.”

City Manager Elizabeth Dragon estimated in September that it would cost about $380,195 over five years to permanently require that all officers use the equipment.

The topic of body cameras came before the City Council this summer in the wake of the George Floyd killing, after hundreds signed a petition calling on Keene to use the equipment. Petition organizers said they felt the measure would increase transparency and accountability.

In late June, the finance committee asked city staff to research the issue and report back with more details.