As the government asserts more and more control over every aspect of your life, going so far as to unlawfully claim they have the right to tell you what face coverings to wear in public, our NH police become less and less transparent.
They spy on us with ill-gotten surveillance cameras, but hide their actions from us. Does this sound right to you?
Traditionally, in Manchester, we had access to the police scanners. This was a simple way for the press and public to exercise some oversight over police actions on our streets, and to know when militarized tools like the BEARCAT was deployed. Around 2016, Chief Willard, in a backroom deal with the City, simply encrypted the scanners. NO PUBLIC INPUT/HEARING WAS HELD.
Today, since it is #SunshineWeek, and I serve on Right-to-Know NH, a statewide nonpartisan coalition of open government advocates, I asked Chief Aldenberg about how he will approach MPD transparency.
The Chief refused to answer whether any active MPD are on the current redacted Laurie’s List/EES. The NH Supreme Court overruled Fenniman last year, and the “personnel record” exception no longer applies. Nor, frankly, should it ever be permissible, in a functioning open society, for state agents, especially those permitted to use lethal force, to hide their own bad behavior from citizens. Watch this week’s episode of Manch Talk for a primer on the Laurie’s List, the court cases, and where we currently stand.
When asked about the dark scanners, the Chief suggested “that’s just how it is.” Chief, you have an opportunity to reverse course on this issue, and be more open and transparent. Please consider this.
The Chief also incorrectly stated the police log is updated every 30 minutes. It’s not. AND, not all calls are logged. Why’s that?
If the police log online is now the public’s sole “check and balance,” what reassurances do we have about the veracity or timeliness of the information on the log? How can we exercise any oversight? Is this how you establish trust? I think we can do better…
Please consider your duty and oath to the NH Constitution:
[Art.] 8. [Accountability of Magistrates and Officers; Public’s Right to Know.] All power residing originally in, and being derived from, the people, all the magistrates and officers of government are their substitutes and agents, and at all times accountable to them. Government, therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive. To that end, the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted. The public also has a right to an orderly, lawful, and accountable government…
ACCOUNTABLE AND RESPONSIVE.
Thanks for doing the Q&A, Manchester NH Police. I look forward to seeing us make progress on these issues to improve citizens’ oversight of your department.