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Bill Banning Police Chokeholds in N.H. Becomes Law; Some Say More Steps Needed

police car
NHPR File Photo

Gov. Chris Sununu has signed a sweeping bill to overhaul state criminal justice policy, including a ban on the use of chokeholds by police in New Hampshire.

In addition, the bill, which was retooled this session in response to the killing of George Floyd, requires police officers to report misconduct they see on the job and provides money to pay for psychological screenings of police recruits.

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It prohibits private prisons in New Hampshire and creates so-called “good Samaritan” protections for reporting an alcohol-related emergency if the person is younger than 21. It also adjusts the state's bail system, clarifying the process for detaining defendents considered dangerous by a judge. 

But some criminal justice reform advocates say the changes don't go far enough in improving police accountability and addressing racial bias. Jordan Thompson, of Black Lives Matter Nashua, said the bill is largely symbolic.

“Police officers can still use that chokehold if they fear that they are in danger or they fear that someone else is in danger,” Thompson said.

Thompson and others say the bill should have also included harsher consequences for officers if they use a chokehold inappropriately or fail to report cases of police misconduct.

In a statement, Sununu called the measure, which was largely crafted by Democrats, "a good first step." Sununu added that he looks forward to the continued work of the commission he established earlier this year on law enforcement accountability. The commission was given 45 days to come up with a series of recommendations to provide to Sununu. But this week, the commission said it may need additional time to complete its work.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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