In full disclosure, I am a retired Keene police officer. I retired 20 years ago; times were different then.
While things have changed my thinking about police officers wearing body cameras has not. I have been a proponent of such technology for years. I have discussed this with the FOP chair, my former police chief, Councilor Powers. He has always correctly pointed out the hidden cost factors, logistics and legalities of camera usage. He is right, but I respectfully feel he is shortsighted.
There is clearly a cost factor associated with the use of cameras, but what price does a community put on protecting its residents from rogue police officers — or police officers from disgruntled citizens who make false allegations?
I am in agreement that some police officers throughout the country should not wear any department’s uniform. Worse yet, some few officers do engage in illegal/criminal, immoral and unethical behavior; they are in a minority, but the public does need to be protected from them.
However, I am approaching this issue from a different perspective. I believe that police officers need the benefit and will benefit from the usage of body cameras, so they can be protected from a minority of citizens who falsely allege illegal/criminal, immoral and unethical acts and/or behavior.
In addition to body cameras, I am also in favor of dash-mounted cameras in the police cars. While body cameras may not be activated until the officer exits his or her vehicle, the dash camera would be on all the time and most importantly, upon arrival at the scene of whatever the call for service may be. Again, what cost is too much to protect the citizenry and the police?
I will end by observing that during my more than 27 years of service, combined with my 20 years of retirement, 47 years in total, I am not aware of any officer having an allegation of racism made against him or her in that time and darn few complaints of use of excessive force. I’m also not naive. I know that while Keene’s department history might be a good indicator of the future, it is not a guarantee. We are fortunate, but not immune.
I urge the City Council to protect its citizens and its police officers equally.
FREDERICK B. PARSELLS
11 McKinley St.