How New Hampshire investigates police misconduct 

  • This aerial image made from a helicopter video provided by WHDH shows several officers pummeling Richard Simone, who had exited his vehicle and kneeled on the ground after a high-speed police pursuit, in Nashua, N.H., Wednesday, May 11, 2016. The chase went through several towns before ending in Nashua. (Courtesy WHDH via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT; BOSTON OUT

Published: 6/3/2020 6:29:45 PM

Under current laws and rules, a New Hampshire police officer who witnesses misconduct should report it to a superior officer.  The agency employing the potential offender conducts an internal affairs investigation.  This investigation can result in discipline such as a suspension.  If the misconduct is criminal (such as theft or sexual assault) there is also a criminal investigation that can result in criminal charges. 

If an officer is suspended for more than one day, or convicted of a crime, by rule the department employing the officer must report it to the state Police Standards and Training Council. 

The Police Standards and Training Council (PSTC) is responsible for training and certifying law enforcement officers in New Hampshire.  After receiving a report of an officer’s misconduct, the PSTC can suspend or revoke an officer’s certification, which prevents that officer from working in law enforcement anywhere in New Hampshire. 

Should reports go straight to the PSTC? 

Two 2020 bills – HB 1217 and SB 470 – would require officers to report misconduct directly to the PSTC before any internal affairs investigation. 

Supporters of HB 1217 and SB 470 compare the bills to the mandatory reporting requirements for doctors and lawyers who witness misconduct. 

Supporters also argue reporting directly to the PSTC will decrease the chance of local departments going too easy on their officers or burying misconduct reports. 

Last year there were several troubling reports about lax internal affairs investigations.  In Salem, New Hampshire an audit of the police department revealed “a pattern of inadequate internal affairs, frequently ignored or discouraged complaints, incomplete records and a culture that chafed against town oversight.” 

A solution in search of a problem? 

Opponents of HB 1217 and SB 470 argue that the bills are “a solution in search of a problem” because the current process for handling police misconduct is working.  The police misconduct in Salem, for example, is now being investigated by the state Attorney General. 

Opponents also argue that the bills do not create a clear process for how the PSTC should respond to these pre-investigation reports.  The PSTC does not have the means or personnel to complete its own investigations.  The bills do not address any process or rights for officers reported to the PSTC before an internal affairs investigation.  What if an officer is wrongly accused? 

Ongoing debate over transparency 

Neither HB 1217 nor SB 470 is likely to become law this year because the legislature suspended activity due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The Legislature will meet in June but they only plan to vote on a limited number of high priority bills. 

HB 1217 and SB 470 could be reintroduced next year as new bills. 

In the meantime, there is an ongoing lawsuit to disclose the names of police officers on the Attorney General’s “Laurie List.”  Named after a landmark court case, the Laurie List includes officers whose credibility might come into question during a trial.  An officer could land on the Laurie List for use of excessive force, falsifying reports, lying in court, or sexual harassment.  Prosecutors have to share this information with the courts when an officer on the list testifies.  Click here to learn more about the Laurie List. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire and several news organizations are suing to disclose the list, arguing that the public has a right to know about police misconduct.  Opponents argue this would violate the privacy and due process rights of officers, who can end up on the list without being convicted of a crime. 

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 




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