How a fired N.H. state trooper kept working in law enforcement
Last year, New Hampshire State Police fired a state trooper after determining he had illegally searched someone’s phone without a warrant and made false statements to investigators. The head of the agency declared his credibility “beyond repair.”
Three weeks later, the ex-trooper, Haden Wilber, found another job in law enforcement.
Over the next 10 months, he worked some 285 hours as a part-time officer for the Kingston Police Department, according to payroll records reviewed by the Granite State News Collaborative. He resigned from Kingston in July.
Though the vast majority of those hours were outside details — things like monitoring traffic at road-construction sites — he was in uniform at those times, with the same powers to detain and arrest as any other law enforcement officer.
Police officers who are fired for misconduct, only to resurface at another agency, are a concern of police-reform advocates nationally.
A recent study out of Florida suggests that such officers pose a higher risk for future wrongdoing. It found that officers who had been fired from their previous job were about twice as likely as their peers to be fired from their new one, and were also much more likely to receive complaints of serious misconduct.
Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, is one notorious example. He had resigned from a previous job, where he faced termination for reasons including insubordination and lying.
In New Hampshire, Wilber isn’t the only recent case.
Last year, the Dover Police Department fired Officer Killian Kondrup after he lied about whether he had pursued a car before a fatal crash. He was hired a few months later in Lee. He worked there as an officer for six months before the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council (PSTC) — which determines who can work in law enforcement in the state — yanked his certification.
And in October 2018, Hancock hired a police officer named Nathan Jette, who had resigned from the Winchester Police Department eight years earlier after sexually harassing a trainee, according to the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. Jette resigned from Hancock in April 2019, a month before the PSTC voted unanimously to prevent him from working in law enforcement in the future.
Kingston’s hiring of Wilber was previously reported, but not the fact that he was actually logging hours in uniform. In July, David Parenteau, a PSTC official, told the news outlet InDepthNH that Wilber’s status with Kingston was “inactive.”
Contacted by a Collaborative reporter, Parenteau said he was not aware Wilber had actually been working outside details, and had based that statement on what the Kingston Police Department had told him.
The PSTC has regulations meant to force problematic police officers out of the profession. But Wilber’s case shows how gaps in those rules — along with a police chief’s willingness to hire an officer who left his last job under a cloud, and an attorney who pushed to make sure he held onto his certification as long as possible — granted him a nearly year-long window before he had to give up his badge.
Wilber’s firing from State Police stemmed from his conduct during and after a February 2017 vehicle stop. An internal review later found he committed multiple constitutional violations, including the illegal warrantless phone search, and mishandled the case in other ways. His actions led to a woman being wrongfully charged with smuggling drugs into a jail, spending 13 days in detention and being forced to submit to an invasive rectal and vaginal search that turned up nothing.
After the woman sued in late 2019, State Police launched an internal investigation, during which investigators came to believe Wilber misled them on multiple occasions. (Wilber has denied lying, saying he misremembered some details of a years-old case.) The state ultimately paid more than $200,000 to settle the driver’s lawsuit.
State Police Director Col. Nathan Noyes fired Wilber on Aug. 9, 2021, in a blistering letter that questioned his fitness and integrity as a law enforcement officer.
The Kingston Police Department hired Wilber as a part-time officer on Aug. 30. It paid him five times that September and October.
Then, on Oct. 21, the PSTC notified Wilber that it planned to hold a hearing on whether to revoke his certification due to the circumstances of his firing from State Police. Kingston’s police chief at the time, Donald Briggs Jr., told the PSTC he was placing Wilber on inactive status as of Nov. 1, according to Parenteau.
According to PSTC regulations, the council is supposed to decertify officers who are fired for certain ethical violations. A State Police official had confirmed to Parenteau that Wilber’s misconduct met that standard.
But the rule doesn’t kick in until the discharge becomes “final.” PSTC Director John Scippa said that means the agency generally doesn’t act on an officer’s certifications until after they have had the chance to appeal their termination through arbitration or another process.
One of Wilber’s attorneys, John Krupski, filed a motion with the PSTC arguing that because Wilber was challenging his firing before the New Hampshire Personnel Appeals Board, the termination was therefore not yet “final” and his certification should stay valid.
Krupski’s motion added that Wilber was “not currently actively participating as a police officer in Kingston and he has been placed on inactive status pending resolution of this matter.”
At a mid-December hearing, the council declined to issue a blanket interpretation of the word “final,” but agreed to delay action on Wilber’s certification until after his employment appeal.
Wilber’s last paycheck from the Kingston Police Department had been issued on Oct. 22. Within a month of the hearing, he resumed his work there. According to payroll records, he received 18 paychecks from the town between mid-January and early July, when the Personnel Appeals Board unanimously upheld his firing. He stepped down from Kingston the next day.
In all, Kingston’s payroll records show Wilber worked 260.5 hours of outside details, 21 training hours and four part-time police hours between August 2021 and July 2022, earning $13,558.
Wilber could not be reached for comment. Krupski and another lawyer who has represented him did not respond to a request for comment. Briggs, the Kingston police chief who hired Wilber, retired in April and did not respond to a request for comment left with a relative.
Kingston’s current police chief, Joel Johnson, said the department had been “aware of an investigation involving an alleged integrity issue” and did not schedule Wilber for any regular police duties, but allowed him to work traffic details.
Johnson did not respond to a question about why the department hired Wilber in the first place. The Kingston selectboard declined to comment.
ACLU-NH Legal Director Gilles Bissonnette said the saga raised questions about why Kingston employed an officer with Wilber’s record. He also argued that the PSTC shouldn’t allow officers who have been fired for alleged misconduct to keep working in law enforcement, “which presumably would include the ability to arrest and use lethal force,” while they appeal.
“The PSTC does a good job addressing misconduct,” Bissonnette said in an email. “However, this case highlights how PSTC may wish to consider intervening earlier in the process and, where there may be a PSTC rules violation, consider temporarily suspending the certification of a terminated officer while any grievance process is pending.”
Scippa, the PSTC director, said the agency’s rules have to weigh different considerations.
“The challenge is balancing public interest versus the due process rights of the officer,” he said.
He said Wilber no longer holds a valid certification.
Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at email@example.com.
These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative as part of our Race and Equity Initiative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.