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July 14, 2024

Sununu signs New Hampshire police reform bills

3 min read

A secret list of New Hampshire police officers who’ve been accused of wrongdoing will gradually be released under a new law signed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

HB 471 will require the Attorney General’s office – which maintains the list of officers with complaints and misconduct records – to make the information subject to the state’s Right-To-Know law, allowing the public to see names of the officers and their alleged misconduct.

The new law will also require police disciplinary hearings to be open to the public, unless confidential information could be revealed.

Sununu signed the bill Wednesday at the state Police Standards and Training Academy in Concord, flanked by law-enforcement officers, lawmakers and criminal justice reform advocates.

The measure, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, stems from recent negotiations between the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, Solicitor General Daniel Will and five news outlets that filed a public records lawsuit against the state seeking to release the names of about 280 officers on the list.

Under the plan, the names on the so-called “Laurie” list won’t immediately be released, and police officers on the list will be given 180 days to appeal their status to a state court.

The new law is backed by police unions and follows a recommendation by the Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency Commission, or LEACT, which was created by Sununu in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

On Wednesday, Sununu also signed SB 96 which creates a new fund for police departments to install body cameras, requires schools to publish contracts with local police departments for school resource officers, and prevents children younger than 13 from being charged under juvenile delinquency laws unless they’ve committed a violent crime.

Another bill signed by the governor, HB 530, is aimed at improving vetting of police officers by allowing police departments considering a new hire to request employment history information such as regular performance evaluations, citizen complaints and disciplinary actions. Supporters of the bill say it will help weed out potentially bad officers.

The new law will also shield police departments from lawsuits alleging a breach of confidentiality over the transfer of those documents.

“From providing a funding source for local agencies to purchase body cameras, to increasing accountability and transparency within hiring and reporting processes, these bills continue our commitment to ensure New Hampshire’s law enforcement continues to set the gold standard for the country,” Sununu said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, D-Wolfeboro, said the “changes are important to criminal justice reform here in New Hampshire and have broad support.”

But some Democrats say the changes fall short of what advocates were pushing for when they first proposed the slate of police reform bills last year.

In a joint statement, Sens. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton, and Jay Kahn, D-Keene, criticized Republicans for stripping key recommendations of the LEACT commission, “such as data collection and mandatory judicial trainings regarding implicit bias and racial profiling.”

“While we are pleased to see portions of the original bill enacted into law, we look forward to continuing our work to enact policies to ensure that New Hampshire is a safe and just place for all and that public safety is paramount,” the lawmakers said.

This article was originally posted on Sununu signs New Hampshire police reform bills

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