State Says Arrest Of Black Man That Went Viral Broke No Laws; Advocates Call For Continued Reform | New Hampshire Public Radio

State Says Arrest Of Black Man That Went Viral Broke No Laws; Advocates Call For Continued Reform

Oct 9, 2020

Credit NHPR File Photo

The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office says the use of non-deadly force in a highly publicized arrest of a Black man in the town of Albany earlier this year was justified.

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The arrest occurred in May, when state troopers pulled over 34-year old Jean Ronald Saint Preux for a car inspection sticker violation. After Saint Preux refused to provide his license and registration and get out of the car, the two officers smashed in his window, dragged him out, and Tasered him.

Saint Preux livestreamed part of the arrest and circulated it widely on social media, sparking outcry from racial justice advocates and prompting an investigation by the Attorney General’s office.

The Attorney General released its final report on Thursday. It concluded that Saint Preux “failed to comply with lawful orders” and that the officers’ use of force to arrest him was justified. Saint Preux pleaded guilty to the charge stemming from his failure to comply earlier this week.

The state’s report also concluded that the officers did not violate the New Hampshire Civil Rights Act, which makes it unlawful to threaten or enact violence against people based on their race or other protected characteristics.

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Joseph Lascaze, a criminal justice reform advocate with the ACLU-New Hampshire and a member of the state’s Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency, says the Attorney General’s report doesn't capture the patterns of racial profiling and intimidation that Black people experience in routine traffic stops and other interactions with police.

“What might be legal doesn’t mean that it's right, and what’s right is not always legal,” he said. “We need to take a look at the policies and procedures that justify this type of behavior.”

Lascaze said a policy requiring body cameras and improved training for state police could have led to a more peaceful outcome.

Those are among the many reforms Gov. Chris Sununu called for in an executive order earlier this week. The order builds off of recommendations of the state commission on police accountability, and earned praise from Lascaze and others who work on racial justice in New Hampshire.

“The governor chose to embrace all 48 recommendations from and enact them to the best of his ability, and that is encouraging, as a person of color in this state, and it’s encouraging as an advocate for police reform,” Lascaze said.

James McKim, head of the Manchester NAACP, said he’s cautiously optimistic about the new executive order.

“I do have concerns that the Legislature has tended in the past to not put a priority on this,” McKim said. “But with the killings of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, I feel there’s a new sense of importance for this issue.”

McKim, who was a member of the commission that advocated for these changes, said the state will need to commit financially to make the recommendations a reality.