BAR HARBOR — Several wearable video cameras will be distributed to local police officers under a trial program.
The $3,000 for the cameras will come out of a $27,000 windfall to the town. The cash is the result of a drug bust made last year by the police department here. The arrest and subsequent conviction of Korey D. Brown, 29, of Bar Harbor on heroin trafficking charges also has netted the department a 2004 Harley Davidson motorcycle, which will be sold.
Other planned purchases include $2,500 in new handguns, $10,000 for two new Toughbook laptop computers and $11,000 for new dispatch and break room furniture for the department.
Town councilors unanimously approved the spending plan, suggested by acting Police Chief Jim Willis, at their regular meeting Tuesday.
“While the timing may seem as if it’s connected to current events, we had decided to give them a try prior to them,” Chief Willis said.
The national discussion about police equipment and accountability has intensified following the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in Ferguson, Mo., earlier this month. Many have said in the wake of the incident that the sequence of events would have been clearer had police officers been wearing cameras. Days of rioting have followed the shooting, with Federal Attorney General Eric Holder now investigating the situation.
Chief Willis told councilors that the timing of his request had nothing to do with the Ferguson incident.
“I guess (the cameras) have been in the news a lot since we’ve been looking at this, but that really isn’t the reason,” he said.
“We’ve discussed the body cameras several times during command staff meetings at the police department. I’ve spoken with other Chiefs in Maine who have used them and found them to be a good tool. It’s really just keeping up with available technology in an affordable way. The wearable cameras could be quite useful with our foot patrols.”
Only the Bar Harbor police were involved in the September 2013 arrest of Brown. He was stopped in the parking lot of a Cottage Street convenience store as part of an ongoing investigation. A subsequent search of his motorcycle turned up 500 bags of heroin and the cash. The value of the heroin was estimated at $28,000.
Brown pled guilty in July of this year. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison with all but four years suspended.
Drug forfeiture items, including cash, are typically distributed among the agencies involved in a particular case. Because Bar Harbor police was the sole agency involved in Brown’s case, the Unified Criminal Court approved transferring the entire amount to the town.
Councilor Clark Stivers on Tuesday recommended using the funds from the sale of the motorcycle to make a donation to an organization such as Mount Desert Island Hospital’s Behavioral Health Center, which provides drug treatment services.
“I suspect at least some of it came out of the pockets of people who were fighting addiction,” Stivers said, “and that’s what they do. They help people fight addiction.”
Councilors agreed theoretically with Stivers’ suggestion, and supported his plan to discuss how to use the funds from the motorcycle sale at their next meeting in September.