ACLU criticizes handling of officer misconduct

Jul 11, 2018

BY: Citizens Count

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are criticizing how the state Department of Justice handles officer misconduct through the so-called “Laurie List.”

About the Laurie List

After the 1995 New Hampshire Supreme Court decision in State vs. Carl Laurie, New Hampshire law enforcement agencies must maintain a list of officers who have been disciplined for dishonesty or other misconduct. If an officer involved in a case appears on this “Laurie List,” prosecutors must share that information with the defense. After all, if an officer was disciplined for lying in the past, it impacts how a judge and jury view his or her testimony.

Learn more about New Hampshire laws addressing police misconduct

On April 30 the New Hampshire Department of Justice updated their Laurie List guidelines.

The new guidelines lay out a process for an officer to have his or her name removed from the Laurie List.

The guidelines also specify that an officer’s name should stay off the Laurie List until any investigation of misconduct is complete.

More due process for law enforcement?

Supporters of the new guidelines argue that the Laurie List can be damaging to a law enforcement officer’s reputation and career, so officers have a right to due process when their name appears on the list.

“Everyone agrees that bad cops should be taken off the street. But our men and women in law enforcement deserve the benefit of the doubt, and they deserve the same robust due process protections as any criminal defendant would have in court.”

- Gov. Chris Sununu

Or less due process for defendants?

In an editorial, Gilles Bissonette, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, and Robin Melone, a member of the New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, argue that the new guidelines hurt the right of accused citizens to defend themselves in court.

In particular, the two criticized how defendants will not know if an officer is under investigation for misconduct, unless the officer tells the prosecutor.

“This ‘trust the police’ approach is not how our criminal justice system works and it puts criminal defendants’ due process rights in jeopardy, especially where the testifying officer is being investigated for a credibility issue in the first place.”

- Gilles Bissonnette and Robin Melone

Do you have an opinion on the Laurie List? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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