Hinsdale police chief talks with selectmen on budget and other issues

Monday December 10, 2012

HINSDALE, N.H. -- The town's police chief met with the Board of Selectmen at Tuesday's meeting to address the elected officials about his department's budget.

The board had previously asked Chief Todd Faulkner to see if there was anything in the budget that could be trimmed, and he said he was able to take a bit from training development as well as a few line items. He mentioned there also will be a reduction in payroll expenses because Officer Dean Wright, who has worked for the department for several years and obtained numerous pay raises, will soon resign from his position and become a part-time employee.

The board tentatively approved the budget. Selectman Mike Darcy told the Reformer it will be sent to the town's budget committee, which will have the opportunity to approve or disapprove it before it heads back to the selectmen. Once its approval is confirmed, a public hearing and possibly a joint meeting will be held closer to Town Meeting Day.

Darcy said the selectmen asked all of town department heads to make some trims.

Faulkner said he understands that all public departments need to remain fiscally tight in these tough economic times.

"I'm completely happy (with the adjustments). It was good to talk to them about it," he said. "I have no issues with what they asked me to cut."

Selectman Richard Schill said the department's tentative 2013-14 budget sits at $916,526.

Faulkner also mentioned he would like a discussion of how to enact a public assembly ordinance in the town. Hinsdale saw a few protests this year and the chief thinks an ordinance should require an application for peaceful demonstrations and could make all types of public demonstrations run more smoothly.

He brought up the Black Friday protest in which 10 to 20 Walmart employees and their supporters picketed outside the retail giant's Hinsdale store the day after Thanksgiving to demand higher wages, better benefits and more workplace respect. Faulkner said the protesters assembled just outside Walmart's doors because they didn't realize the store had a right to ask them to leave the private property. The chief responded to the store and told them they would have to move their protest off private property, which he said they did with no issue.

The chief said an application would eliminate these confusions and prevent him from having to go to the scene of a peaceful demonstration and inform people as how to protest in a law-abiding manner. All protesters would be told where they can demonstrate as well as learn how to picket without breaking any laws.

Faulkner also cited the Flotilla & Rally to Stop VT Yankee Pollution at the Hinsdale dam. He said the police department had to make sure N.H. Fish and Game Department was present and everyone was kept safe.

He said he fully respects the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution, which guarantees Americans the right to peacefully assemble in protest, but he feels an application process would be helpful.

Faulkner also told the Reformer he is excited that his department's officers will soon have surveillance cameras on their uniforms as opposed to on the dashboards of their cruisers. He said the new technology will be able to capture video that is not limited to the area around the dashboard.

"Ninety percent of the work we do happens outside (the cameras') view," he said, adding that the officers' uniform microphones, which are radio transmitted, can pick up audio within only 300 feet of the vehicle after they have been turned on.

Faulkner, who hopes to have the new cameras in use by Jan. 1, said they will provide better evidence for juries that need to see everything an officer did. He said having them will result in fewer objections from opposing lawyers because the chain of custody a video or object goes through will be crystal clear.

"Everything we do is based on the officers' point of view," he said.

The cameras, manufactured by TASER International, Inc., will also save the department money, as one can be installed for about $1,000 -- as opposed to the cruiser cameras which cost between $3,000 and $4,000.

Darcy told the Reformer some issues, such as the right to privacy, need to be addressed and the cameras and their use must comply with current regulations. Nevertheless, he is still enthusiastic about the new technology.

"I think that, overall, the idea is a good idea," he said. "Video evidence has no bias."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277


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