New Hampshire HB 1682 was introduced by Rep. David Welch (R – Rockingham13) on 1/5/2022, followed by a public hearing on 1/14/2022. The House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety voted that the bill “ought to pass with amendment” and has been referred to the House Finance Committee for further review.
On the Surface It Sounds Great: Hold Police Accountable for Their Actions
The idea of this bill is to establish a committee that’s considered “independent” and separate from local police jurisdictions in order to ensure police officers are held accountable for their actions (or inactions.) According to Rep. David Welch, the aim of the bill is “to establish a single, neutral, and independent statewide entity to receive complaints alleging misconduct regarding all sworn and elected law enforcement officers.” – HB 1682 public hearing, 1/14/2022 – watch here
As outlined in the bill, officers could potentially face the new Conduct Review Committee for a number of reasons, including: if they’ve been convicted of committing a felony, any sentence of incarceration, excessive use of force, driving while intoxicated, moral turpitude (dishonesty, deceit, theft), acts of omission, lying in a police report or criminal proceeding, falsification of records, tampering with or falsifying evidence, racist conduct or statements, etc.
This all sounds great, because of course law enforcement officers should be held accountable for their actions! Which makes me wonder, why aren’t they now?
Policing the Police With Police
There’s already an established Police Standards and Training Council that handles internal reviews in New Hampshire. The new Law Enforcement Conduct Review Committee would fall under that umbrella, dealing exclusively with misconduct reviews. In recent years the public’s interest in holding police accountable has skyrocketed. Perhaps there are so many cases of police misconduct in the state that they can no longer handle the workload or process them quickly enough.
Since the new Conduct Review Committee would fall under the already established Standards Council, the governor would (again) be appointing its members. The current Police Standards and Training Council consists of mainly a bunch of police officers appointed by Governor Sununu. Since it is the governor who will be appointing members here again, I’m not sure this bill will be as effective as it looks. A politician hand-picking members within the context of “maintaining absolute objectivity” is a farce.
The Law Enforcement Conduct Review Committee would consist of:
- Four law enforcement officers appointed by the governor
- Three public members with no familial associations to a police officer, lawyer, or judge
It’s A Step in the Right Direction
Clearly the public is sick and tired of law enforcement officer misconduct and abuse. Many states are re-thinking how they pursue justice and hold officers accountable for their actions, and New Hampshire is right there with them.
HB 1682, although flawed, is at least heading in the right direction. We want police accountability, and we want it now! What do you think? Will the establishment of a new committee under the current council, all members of which are governor-appointed, get us on the road to accountability? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Video of the Public Hearing for HB 1682: (2:16:42 – 3:22:22)