Campaigns pay for town security

KEENE -- Whether candidates or taxpayers foot the bill for extra security at campaign events depends on the size of the crowd, according to police who've been busy at several large rallies recently.

Keene Police Chief Arthur Walker said he's been getting calls from other police departments asking who pays when a presidential candidate -- and their crowds and traffic -- comes to town. It's a situation he's quite familiar with: Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama both have held events in the city 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. Last week, Obama's campaign paid for four officers to work from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., standing at the entrances to the Keene State College gymnasium where the senator spoke.

For Walker, who has been an officer in Keene for roughly three decades, the biggest political event he remembers occurred in the early 1990s, when President Bill Clinton spoke at Central Square to a crowd of thousands.

In that case, the city was expected to cover the cost of helping Secret Service secure every street and alley around Main Street. Walker said he doesn't recall how much police coverage cost the city.

In Concord, Sgt. Jim Berry said candidates generally pay for the extra security, except in cases where U.S. Secret Service agents request help.

In smaller towns, where less assistance is needed, candidates are less likely to pay. Peterborough Chief Scott Guinard said so far, the costs have been minor and candidates haven't offered to pay his department.

"As long as everything goes smoothly," it's not necessary for candidates to contact police before they show up to campaign, Guinard said.