11/18/2007

N.H. mulls charging presidential candidates for extra police

The Associated Press

CONWAY, N.H - Town officials are considering whether presidential campaigns should be charged for the cost of police protection and traffic control during campaign stops in town.

A recent visit by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton required nine police officers and led to four hours of overtime. With the campaign heating up by the day, that inspired selectmen to consider charging future campaigns for police coverage.

"We suddenly realized that this could represent quite a cost to the town," said Howard "Crow" Dickinson, a selectman in the town known for its mountain views and outlet shopping.

"I'm not sure that this sort of whistle-stop tour brings much to the town," Dickinson said. "In other towns, they are staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, and I am not sure that's happening here."

Selectman Mark Hounsell noted that the Clinton campaign paid the high school to use its auditorium during her visit. But he said other events, such as dances at the school, pay for police overtime as well. If campaigns can't pay, then perhaps they should visit another town, he said.

"If they don't think votes in the biggest town in Carroll County are worth providing for their police protection, then they can go to another county," he said. Conway's estimated population was 9,208 in 2005. Carroll County had 47,439 residents.

Police Chief Ed Wagner said he considers it a professional courtesy to assist the Secret Service on candidate protection.

Selectmen said they would look into what other communities are doing before deciding what to do.

Other towns have charged campaigns.

In Keene this spring, the campaigns of Clinton and rival Barack Obama each held events that attracted crowds of more than 2,000. In both cases, the campaigns covered the cost of hiring extra police, at $56 per hour for each officer.

Other communities say candidates generally pay for the extra security, except in cases where U.S. Secret Service agents request help.

Copyright 2007 The Union Leader

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