Sunshine Week: Nashua PD complies with Laurie List rules
Departments statewide are still reviewing cases
NASHUA – Nashua is one of a handful of New Hampshire police departments to comply with new guidelines from the Attorney General’s Office on the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule.
“When the Attorney General puts out something, we follow it,” said Nashua Police Chief Andrew Lavoie.
Issued last year, the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule guidelines are an updated version of the so-called Laurie List requirements. Under the expanded guidelines, police chiefs must report officers who have been found to lack credibility, use excessive force, fail to comply with legal procedures, or exhibit mental illness or instability to their County Attorneys. The County Attorneys in turn make that information available to the Attorney General’s’ Office
This information must be disclosed to defense attorneys in cases where an officer on the list was part of the investigation.
The Telegraph obtained a copy of the Attorney General’s list through a Right to Know request. The list provided to The Telegraph redacts information that could identify the officer.
In March of 2017, then Attorney General Joseph Foster issued new guidelines that expanded the categories of actions that could land an officer on the list, and set a Sept. 1, 2017, deadline for every police chief in the state to review all personnel files against the new guidelines and update their lists.
On Friday, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Wolford said in an email that this deadline was later pushed back to Jan. 2 of 2018, to give police chiefs more time to review their cases.
The list shows that about 20 departments in New Hampshire complied with the deadline. Many departments, including Manchester, show no date for when issues were reported, and some show dates that are several years old.
Wolford said that in most cases, County Attorneys are working with police chiefs to get them into compliance with the new guidelines. Even without the deadline, police chiefs are supposed to keep their lists up to date as issues arise, she said.
“The requirement to update the EES is ongoing, in that law enforcement agencies must notify this
agency whenever a determination is made that an officer has engaged in conduct that would be considered exculpatory in a criminal case,” Wolford said.
The list shows 155 officers reported for issues like using excessive force, lying, dereliction of duty, and sexual harassment. In Nashua, Lavoie found 15 officers to report to the County Attorney after he reviewed 179 personnel files.
“It would be nice if we didn’t have any, and we shouldn’t have any,” Lavoie said of Nashua officers on the list.
Lavoie lists brief descriptions, sometimes one word, of the incidents the cause the officer to be listed. Not all of the departments include this information
Of the officers Lavoie reported under the EES directive, two are still working for Nashua. Under the law, police departments must continue to report the officers on the list even after they leave their service. When Nashua comes across an officer who has an issue, Lavoie said they department deals with it through training, discipline, and putting the officer on the list as warranted.
After review all of the files, Lavoive is confident in his department and the officers. That’s borne out in the low number of officers on the list compared to the total officers he reviewed.
“We have people who follow the rules and do the right thing,” Lavoie said.
New Hampshire’s Exculpatory Evidence Schedule comes out of the New Hampshire Supreme Court decision in State vs. Laurie from 1995 which overturned Carl Laurie’s murder conviction because prosecutors withheld knowledge that a key police witness had been disciplined for dishonesty. Since 2004, police chiefs have been required to keep lists of police officers who have been disciplined for disclosure to defense
Foster’s broadening of the requirement for getting put on the list includes complaints against officers that are found to be unsubstantiated, a change that many see as unfair to police officers.
Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @Telegraph_DF.
Editor’s note: Newspapers are watchdogs of government because of laws protecting the public’s freedom of information. Each year, through a series of Right-to-Know requests, The Telegraph uses public records to examine government effectiveness. A weeklong series of investigative stories begins today, to coincide with Sunshine Week.