Sununu signs bill to fund crisis intervention training for police

  • The State House dome as seen on March 5, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

New Hampshire Bulletin
Published: 7/11/2022 4:53:37 PM

New Hampshire will devote $1.1 million to train more police officers in crisis intervention under a bill signed by Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday.

State lawmakers will also study the creation of a “mental health incident review board” to examine cases where police officers use deadly force against people with mental health problems, the bill states.

Senate Bill 376 will send the extra funding to the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, which will use it to reimburse police departments that send an officer to complete crisis intervention training.

That funding will be available only to police departments that don’t presently have an officer trained in crisis intervention in their departments. Rather than funding crisis training for every officer in the state, lawmakers are advocating that each department train at least one officer in the techniques.

“Each CIT trained officer shall serve as a local police department resource in situations where mental health is a factor in law enforcement interactions with members of the public,” the bill states.

The money will cover transportation, lodging, and meal expenses. It will also help the training council contract with an outside vendor to deliver the training, and to hire a part-time administrator for the program.

The bill creates a study committee made up of two senators and three House representatives to look into how the state might create a review board. That board would be designed to review “all mental health aspects of all incidents involving law enforcement use of deadly force, and such non-lethal special weapons and tactics (SWAT) engagements, including regional SWAT teams, as the mental health incident review board may choose to review,” according to the bill.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office already conducts reviews of all incidents where police officers kill civilians in the line of duty, but those reviews are meant to determine only whether the use of lethal force was legally justified. The review board would look at the whole situation leading up to the civilian’s death, provided they have mental health issues.

The law emerges as law enforcement across the country has come under scrutiny for the use of lethal force in mental health episodes, with civil rights groups calling for departments to improve de-escalation tactics. An investigation by the Concord Monitor in January found that 60% of the people killed by New Hampshire police in the past 10 years had a mental illness – out of more than 30 cases in total.

SB 376 drew attention to the concern.

“The general court finds that the number of deadly force incidents involving individuals suffering from mental health disorders is increasing, consistent with the significant increase in mental illness among the general population,” the bill states in its preamble.

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