Gov. Chris Sununu has granted a state commission on police accountability and transparency an extra 30 days to look into community relations and police misconduct. The commission, created in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, must deliver a full report with recommendations on police reform to the governor by the end of the month.
The commission has already released a preliminary list of recommendations, including a call for additional annual training for police officers in the state on topics like de-escalation and bias. On Tuesday, Sununu said the state will cover any costs associated with that new training, rather than leave that to local police departments.
“Whatever the need is around the training, the funding is not going to be the issue,” Sununu said in an afternoon press conference. “We can promise you that.”
Sununu said the money for these trainings will come out of the state’s general fund.
Meanwhile, the commission continues to take testimony on issues related to policing reform in New Hampshire. Commissioners met virtually Tuesday to hear testimony on the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Portsmouth Police Captain Mark Newport said his department is working to hire officers with different backgrounds, including more people of color.
"You know, we're hiring people that were mental health workers, social workers,” he told the commission. “Those are the people we're hiring as police officers now. But they're hard to find and there's a lot of competition."
Newport said it's essential for the public and law enforcement to better understand each other in order for relationships to improve. Newport said, growing up Black in Massachusetts, he never would have considered becoming an officer, until he had an internship with the Portsmouth department in college, and he learned more about what it's actually like to work in law enforcement.
"I've had bad experiences with police officers growing up,” Newport said. “I've been stopped for driving while Black. I've looked down the barrel of a gun before I was a police officer, and I've been in situations where in a split-second decision I may not be here talking to you guys right now. I know what that feels like."
Newport said his knowledge of both sides of the police-public divide has made him a better officer.