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Hearing set for Thursday on citizens petition seeking to bring Police Commission appointment process under local control

By Dean Shalhoup - Senior Staff Writer | Sep 14, 2021

Telegraph file photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Michael Pedersen, a state representative from Nashua's Ward 5 and a leader of the Citizens for Local Control initiative, speaks to people gathered outside City Hall earlier this month. A public hearing is set for Thursday on the proposal to change the police commission appointment process. (Telegraph fiel photo by DEAN SHALHOUP)

NASHUA — Proponents and opponents of a proposal to amend the city charter to shift the responsibility of appointing members of the Nashua Police Commission from the governor and executive council to local city officials will get the opportunity to weigh in on the matter Thursday evening.

The Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing on the controversial proposal, beginning at 7 p.m. in the City Hall aldermanic chamber. Residents may attend the hearing in-person or via Zoom, the links for which appear on the agenda posted at www.nashuanh.gov.

Those planning to attend in person are reminded that the wearing of facemasks is now mandatory in all of City Hall.

The hearing will also be carried live on CTV channel 16.

While the resolution calling for a charter amendment to change the commission appointment process was defeated by an 8-6 vote of the Board of Aldermen several weeks ago, a group of residents in favor of the change organized a petition drive that garnered more than enough signatures to put the question on the ballot for the Nov. 2 municipal election.

The group, which calls itself Citizens for Local Control, collected 2,058 total signatures, 1,830 of which were certified by city officials. The total certified signatures exceeded by nearly 300 the minimum of 1,539 signatures required to put the question on the ballot.

Meanwhile, opponents of the proposed change came out in droves early on in the process, lining up to speak at committee and board meetings and submitting letters via email and on paper.

Among the written communications was a six-page letter signed by nearly 50 residents, ranging from “concerned citizens” to current and former police officials, large and small business owners, office holders and former Mayor Bernie Streeter.

Titled “An open letter to the mayor, Board of Aldermen and city of Nashua,” the letter warns that changing the appointment process has the “potential (for) far reaching and long-lasting ramifications to our city … .”

Many opponents contend that residents who signed the petitions weren’t made fully aware of both sides of the issue.

The opponents’ letter features about a dozen bullet-points citing various negative impacts they feel a change in the process could have not only on the commission, but on the entire police department.

Opponents have also pointed to the fact the current system, by which the governor appoints Police Commission members, who are then approved by the 5-member Executive Council, has worked quite well since the process was enacted as part of the city charter in 1891 — some 130 years ago.

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.

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