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Activists In Nashua Push For Changes To The City's Police Commission

People stand outside a Nashua Board of Education meeting.
Mary McIntyre
Activists in Nashua gather signatures for a referendum that would change how the local police commissioner is selected.

Nashua is the only city in New Hampshire where local police commissioners are appointed by the governor, and there's an effort underway to change that.

Activists in Nashua are attempting to add a referendum to the city ballot this November. Voters would decide whether local officials or citizens should be the ones to choose police commissioners instead of the governor.

Nashua’s police commission oversees personnel decisions like the hiring, promotion and termination of officers. It also takes a preliminary look at the department’s budget before it’s proposed to the mayor and board of aldermen for consideration and final approval.

Black Lives Matter Nashua co-founder Jordan Thompson says the way the commission is currently selected means there isn’t enough oversight of local police.

"I mean my major concern about this is that there isn't enough transparency,” Thompson said. “There isn't enough inclusivity. There isn't enough accountability."

Thompson says he’d like to see more diversity on the commission and for Nashua citizens to have more control over who is selected.

Advocates for the change gathered at the Nashua Board of Education meeting Monday night to protest the current police commission selection process and to collect signatures in support of the referendum.

But about a dozen men affiliated with the Proud Boys interrupted. The Proud Boys are a far-right extremist group that regularly promotes white nationalist ideology, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which defines them as a hate group.

Thompson said this isn't the first time they've shown up to local meetings, though Monday night saw more of them than in the past.

"I think a lot of the supporters that walked by were taunted by them,” Thompson said. “They said some pretty inflammatory things."

Thompson said even though his group's work was interrupted, activists were still able to get many of the signatures they needed to move forward with their proposal.

Nashua Police Chief Michael Carignan released a letter last week in opposition to the referendum. He said influence from local politicians would lead to less transparency on the police commission.

“I think the potential there for influence to come into the way the police department currently operates is very dangerous,” Carignan said.

He said a subcommittee of aldermen agreed the proposal needs further study and he’d like to see community conversations take place so citizens can talk through both sides of the issue.