The state senate this week passed a multifaceted criminal justice bill requiring police to report misconduct of fellow officers and banning choke holds, the type of tactic a former Minneapolis police officer used on George Floyd, crushing his knee into Floyd's neck until he could no longer breath.
Also on that scene: Two other officers who appeared to hold Floyd down while a third looked on. All four officers were fired and are now facing charges.
That image prompted Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis to go beyond what state lawmakers called for this week.
A Clear Duty to Intervene, not Just Report
“In reviewing our policy, even though we had a clear reporting of misconduct rule, and an expectation that if you saw someone using excessive force, you would intervene, it wasn't clearly stated,” Dennis said, speaking on The Exchange. “So I've already made a special order effective immediately that there is a clear duty to intervene, not only report, but also to intervene.”
(For the full Exchange conversation, visit here.)
Dennis, who is also President of the N H Association of Chiefs of Police, said officers also must be trained to intervene through role playing so that they're prepared to speak up in any circumstance, including an incident of misconduct involving a superior officer.
Rooting Out Bias
When it comes to training on implicit bias, Dennis said, there should be a national standard that requires ongoing and rigorous education. Such training policies can vary within a state and from state to state.
For Erika Perez, co-founder of Manchester Black Lives Matter, the killing of so many Black men by police officers points up the limits of implicit bias training. She cites 2014 data from the N.H. Dept of Safety indicating that Blacks were 5.2 times more likely to be jailed in New Hampshire.
James McKim, president of the Manchester chapter of the NAACP, said bias can be found throughout the criminal justice system. “We have bias in the court system. We have people of color who are brought up in front of a judge and need to have bail and we know that bail is being set higher for people of color, “ he said. “So when we talk about training there does need to be a lot more training not just with the police force but all along the criminal justice system.”
McKim has been meeting with groups around the state, including many in law enforcement, to come up with a set of recommendations for reforming the justice system. He says he plans to present them to the new Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency established this week by Gov. Chris Sununu. McKim and Chief Dennis are members of the Commission, which includes Ronelle Tshiela, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter in Manchester, .
Sununu said he wants the commission to reexamine everything from police training to misconduct investigations and issue recommendations within 45 days.