NH Department of Corrections introduces Axion body-worn cameras

Sergeant Daniel Rivard wears an Axon Body 3 camera. Photo/NH DOC

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Corrections announces the launch of its department-wide body-worn camera initiative. Every sworn police officer in the department will now receive a body-worn camera, and all emergency vehicles will be equipped with on-board camera systems. The New Hampshire Department of Corrections is only the second state correctional agency in the country to implement department-wide body-worn cameras on all sworn police officers.

The Department launched a body-worn camera pilot project using a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded in 2019. The grant provided technical assistance in engaging various stakeholders, establishing department policy, and funds to purchase 52 body-worn cameras for a total grant amount of $52,006.00. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the timeline for implementation of the pilot project.

After Governor Sununu's Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency (LEACT) encouraged all law enforcement agencies to use body and/or dashboard cameras, the department lobbied for additional state general funds through the budget process to equip the entire department with cameras. Beyond the $52,006 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the body camera systems, including equipment and storage, will be funded with $720,000 in state general funds.

The department initiated the pilot deployment in the closed psychiatric unit in July 2023 and expanded the rollout to the rest of the department, including all correctional officers in the jails and halfway house units, as well as all investigators and probation officers.

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Axion Body-Worn Camera

“With its unmatched commitment to safety and transparency, New Hampshire is the No. 1 state in corrections for a reason,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “This announcement from the Department of Corrections is another step to ensure we continue to set the gold standard, provide transparency and build public trust.”

“Every day, NHDOC officers work in a demanding environment and perform extremely difficult work,” said Commissioner Helen Hanks. “The use of body-worn and vehicle-worn cameras underscores the department's commitment to safety and increased transparency. The use of these cameras aims to improve the overall safety of staff and residents by proactively curbing aggressive or disruptive behavior and creating a positive effect on interactions.”

The Department and LEACT Commission's recommendations strengthen transparency, accountability, and public safety enforcement through the implementation of these efforts. This is a significant step forward and builds upon NHDOC's current use of fixed and wearable cameras in facilities. In addition, the body-worn cameras provide an audio component not available with the fixed cameras.

To date, more than 450 body-worn cameras are in use across the department, and all officers and investigators are trained in their use. All 55 of the department's emergency vehicles are equipped with cameras on the dashboard and/or in the cargo area.

Department policy requires officers to wear body-worn cameras while on duty and to activate the cameras during reportable incidents or activities, including but not limited to entering a housing unit or a resident's living space, responding to emergency situations, pat-downs of residents, during the movement of an escorted resident in handcuffs or shackles, and during any planned attempt to execute a warrant or other planned arrest on the scene. In addition, there are some automatic triggers, including drawing a taser or firearm or activating the warning lights in a vehicle, and more automatic triggers will be added as older devices are upgraded.

After a competitive bidding process in collaboration with the NH Department of Information Technology and the NH Department of Administrative Services, Axon Enterprise, Inc. was selected as the supplier for this project. Axon Body 3 cameras will be used as the body-worn cameras, while Axon Fleet 3 will be used as the in-vehicle camera system.

Anna Harden

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