Panel Reviews Police Training In New Hampshire | New Hampshire Public Radio

Panel Reviews Police Training In New Hampshire

Jun 27, 2020

Credit NHPR Photo

A state commission looking at police accountability and transparency in New Hampshire met virtually this week to discuss current standards for training on diversity, de-escalation and use of force.

On Thursday and Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu’s Commission on Law Enforcement, Accountability, Community and Transparency heard presentations on how officers are trained in New Hampshire.

Director of the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, John Scippa, is one member of the panel, which also includes members from Black Lives Matter, the NAACP and the ACLU. Scippa spoke about the state’s police academy, a 16-week course that every police recruit must attend.

Some commission members pointed out that only two hours of that program are dedicated to diversity training, through a class called “Cultural Dynamics.”

Every officer in the state, no matter what rank, is required to go through additional training, at least eight hours of training each year, but the curriculum is determined by their own department. Local departments have authority over any other training outside the academy, meaning some officers in New Hampshire might not receive any further training on race.

Ronelle Tshiela, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Manchester, is a public member on the commission.

“Our focus will be on real steps to ensure law enforcement is adequately trained on implicit bias, that data on race is collected and made available through every step of the criminal justice system and that New Hampshire remains focused on building transparency around police misconduct and reporting such misconduct publicly,” Tshiela said in a statement Thursday.

Sununu gave the commission a 45-day deadline to submit their recommendations for police reform. 

The New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said in a statement Thursday that it’s impossible to address systemic racism within law enforcement and the criminal justice system in just 45 days.

“Yet we are hopeful that the commission will lay the groundwork for less policing, better policing and most importantly, anti-racist policing,” the NHACDL said.

At the group’s Thursday meeting, commission member Julian Jefferson talked about the times he's seen police officers use excessive force in his work as a public defender. He says that's something the commission needs to confront. 

"There is a culture in law enforcement across this country and in this state that allows for some police officers to cross that line from being a professional that is protecting and serving the public and turning into a bully that's bullying the public."

Scippa said an incident where someone suspects an officer of excessive use of force should be reported to the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council.

Col. Nate Noyes, from New Hampshire State Police, said on Friday that he understands police culture is just as important as looking at specific policies.

"Culture takes years and decades to build, along with trust, and we just have to keep working at it," he said.

Members of the panel intended to take public comment on Friday, but ran out of time. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, the chairman of the commission, says there will be opportunities for public comments at future meetings.

Members of the public can also submit their own testimony or recommendations for changes to the commission at LEACT@doj.gov. The commission will deliver their recommendations for police reform to Governor Sununu in August.