My sign from two years ago today says: “Why protect bad apples?!?” Why, indeed…
Two years ago, I attended the Superior Court hearing about making PUBLIC the “Laurie’s List,” a secret list of bad cops. The NH AG’s office, headed by Gordon MacDonald, who was recently appointed as Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court (read my testimony against his appointment here), was arguing that there is NO PUBLIC INTEREST in knowing which NH law enforcement officers have been found by their own police chief after a 20-page procedure to be so untrustworthy that they cannot testify in court.
You have to lie, cheat, steal or beat people up to get on the list. At that time, the “Laurie’s List” had about 270 officers on the list. I believe that’s about 10% of the full-time NH force.
Judge Temple rightly sided with Granite Staters, and in April 2019, issued an order saying the list must be released, stating there was a COMPELLING PUBLIC INTEREST for us to know who these law enforcement officers are. Doh!
The NH AG APPEALED this decision (yes, the same guy who is now in charge of the NH SC), making NH taxpayers again PAY to support an argument that the list should be kept secret from us. Rude!
I remind you the NH Constitution says: “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.”
You’d have to be a statist to think keeping a secret list of bad cops hidden from the public they purport to serve is in any way OK.
The matter ended up in the Supreme Court last summer, where the Court finally overturned the wrongly-decided Fenniman decision from the Nineties, finding that, after almost 30 years, state agents cannot claim information placing officers on the “Laurie’s List” falls under “confidential personnel matters.” Doh!
In the meantime, cities across America burned with people protesting the profound lack of police accountability nationwide. Even here in NH, we saw marches and confrontations.
Sununu cleverly convened a “Look! We’re Doing Something!” task force called the LEACT, stacked with… you guessed it, 50% law enforcement. The commission made a few good recommendations, most of which, if I have to bet money, won’t be implemented. But, “Look! It Looks Like We’re Doing Something!”
At the start of the 2021 legislative session, along comes Senator Carson, who gallingly introduces SB39, which basically aims to REVERSE the transparency and accountability progress that took us TWENTY SEVEN YEARS TO FIX.
This horrendous bill did not have any other co-sponsors when it was introduced, but, after pro-transparency and pro-accountability activists testified to stop SB39 (me, RTKNH, ACLU-NH, etc.) several law enforcement officers jumped on the Zoom call to give, let me be polite here, very conflicting testimony about whether this bill would implement any of the LEACT Commission’s recommendations. (It doesn’t).
This bill must die if transparency is to live.
Granite Staters have the right-to-know what our government is doing in our names. Granite Staters have a right-to-know who the bad cops are. Granite Staters have a right-to-know everything and anything about our government, because if we don’t, then who do they serve and work for if it is not us?
You can follow my RTK work and other open government issues on my blog, The Art of Independence: