The Town Council approved with 5-0 vote an ordinance relative to assigning police details for public or private events that would have an impact on public safety or traffic.
“There’s also a movement afoot in the State Legislature to outline police details for those municipalities that don’t have a protocol for details,” Town Manager Kevin Smith told the Council at its Dec. 2 meeting.
Smith noted it’s his understanding the new State law related to assigning police details would defer to local ordinances that municipalities have in place, while those that don’t have their own ordinance would adopt the State’s protocol.
According to the Town’s new ordinance, any person desiring to conduct an event on town property or on a public way must apply for police attendance at that function, or be guilty of a violation.
The Chief of Police will determine if police attendance is necessary and assign one or more police officers to attend, and the applicant is responsible for the Department’s services.
Police details may be assigned to attend any public meetings, functions or activities upon a public way that the Chief determines may potentially involve traffic-related problems; endanger public health, safety or welfare; or lead to a public disturbance or public nuisance, according to the Ordinance.
The Police Chief has the authority to waive charges for services when in his judgment such authorization does not conflict with an existing ordinance or policy.
Town Councilor Tom Dolan asked Police Chief Bill Hart what mechanism the Town has in place to gain reimbursement or minimize costs related to police details for political candidates campaigning in Londonderry.
Hart said there isn’t specific policy in place, but the Department has in the past unsuccessfully attempted to secure reimbursements from candidates who required detail protection, including President Barack Obama for a campaign event at Mack’s Apples, and President George Bush’s campaign for Lara Bush’s visit in Londonderry in 2004.
Generally, Hart said candidates have very limited protection, while candidates serving as high ranking officials often bring a small unit of their individual gubernatorial state police. Local law enforcement coordinates with them.
“We do interact with almost every campaign, but that’s in our usual course of duties,” Hart said. “If we provide routine law enforcement protection or service as police, we don’t bill. If we provide detail protection, we do bill.
“We’ve had a metamorphosis since the 2008 exercise. We deal with it up front, we’re going to bill you, we do expect payment,” he said.
Since 2008, the Department has not assigned an extra duty detail that wasn’t reimbursed, according to Hart.
“It is a difficult, somewhat swampy political choice I make as the chief executive officer of this agency to welcome those men and women who seek the highest office in our land to our community, and balance the need to secure payment for appropriate services against the appropriate exercise of political campaigning in our great state, this first in the nation primary,” he said.
Councilor Joe Green asked what impact the new ordinance will have on the community and the Police Department.
“From the point of view of the Town of Londonderry/the Town of Londonderry Police Department, it won’t change very much at all. It won’t have any discernible impact whatsoever,” Hart said. “The Town Manager was right, though, that should the bill being entertained by the New Hampshire Legislature pass and we didn’t have this, it would then have an impact on how we provide services to our community.”