America Protests New Hampshire

Lt. Alex Reno of the Hampton, N.H., police department (right) right, and Deputy Chief Kevin Gelineau of the Seabrook, N.H., police department (center) join with protesters taking a knee during a rally June 1, 2020 on Hampton Beach. The group gathered to voice their concerns following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.

(The Center Square) – In a move that could increase public transparency around police officer and public employee misconduct, the New Hampshire Supreme Court recently ruled on two cases which effectively overturned a 1993 court decision that was in conflict with the state’s public records law.

The ACLU was co-counsel in both of the cases regarding the 1993 decision.

“In that 1993 decision, the court had broadly interpreted a provision of our public records law called the internal personnel practices exemption, which basically allowed state and municipal agencies to withhold a lot of very important documents from public view,” Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, told New Hampshire Public Radio. “The court, in fact, went so far as to say that that 1993 decision was contradictory to our state's principles of open government and reduced the goals of our public records law to lip service.”

In light of recent events, Bissonnette said there is going to be more transparency within law enforcement in the state.

“As protests are erupting throughout the country about police accountability, we know that for some officers, there's information concerning abuses in their personnel files that to date haven't been available to the public, and at least in New Hampshire there could be greater access now to that information,” Bissonnette said.