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Legislation would shine ‘sunlight’ on instances of N.H. police misconduct

Monitor staff

Read the full story in The Concord Monitor.

Under state law, the disciplinary records of public employees who have engaged in wrongdoing are kept out of the public eye.

But if a bill currently making its way through the State House passes, police officers would no longer enjoy that protection. House Bill 153 would make the disciplinary records of police officers subject to right-to-know requests when there has been a sustained finding of misconduct.

Examples of misconduct would include, but not be limited to, discharging a firearm that led to death or serious injury; sexual assault, and being dishonest, like falsifying reports or lying in court. The law would include any findings made outside of the court system, such as an internal review by municipal officials.

State Rep. Paul Berch, the bill’s prime sponsor, called the measure “sunlight legislation,” modeled after a recent change in California state law that made all police disciplinary records publicly available. He said about 27 states currently have limited access or complete access to police disciplinary records; the remaining, including New Hampshire, keep those records private.

He said the bill would help build public trust in law enforcement and show officers that state leaders take such matters seriously.

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