We have an interesting organization in New Hampshire called Police Standards and Training. It doesn’t get a lot of attention in the newspapers or from people in the state. I believe that is a very good thing. It means they are doing their job.
They have been training all police officers, liquor enforcement officers and Department of Fish and Game officers, weights and measures personnel, and correction officers — basically anyone with arrest authority that works for the state. This training creates uniform practices across the state.
All new officers currently attend residential training for 16 weeks (680 hours), and part-time officers have a requirement of 200 hours. Corrections officers have a 10-week course specifically geared to working in a correctional facility.
There are basically three separate areas they concentrate on: foundational, legal classes and police procedures.
They start by learning communication skills, report writing and, of course, required physical fitness. They have legal classes where they learn about arrests of persons, property loss and criminal investigations. A person coming onto a police force generally is not aware of all the ins and outs of the legal system, but we don’t want to put officers on the job without a clear understanding of the laws of New Hampshire.
Finally, they learn defensive driving tactics, motor vehicle stops and crisis intervention. This provides every officer in the state with the same initial training and starts them on their way to being a successful officer.
In addition to the initial training for new police officers, the N.H. Police Academy also offers training for newly hired police chiefs and first line supervisors.
Additionally, every year, officers are required to take eight hours of in-service training and four hours of use of force training. So, even though they complete the basic course, the in-service training keeps them up to date with police practices. This system has been working well for New Hampshire, but of course there can always be improvements.
The governor convened the Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency Commission to review law enforcement practices in the state and recommend improvements.
The commission came up with 48 recommendations for improving policing in New Hampshire. The recommendations were broken down into the following categories: Training, Reporting and Investigation of Police Misconduct, and Community Relations. I will highlight only a few of them.
Training: Increase the mandatory number of hours of annual in-service training to 24 hours; increase the number of hours of scenario-based training at the academy; re-evaluate the part-time police officer certification process.
Reporting and Investigation of Police Misconduct: Establish a community outreach position in the Attorney General’s Office to facilitate communication between all state, county and local prosecution offices; encourage all law enforcement agencies to use body and/or dash cameras; and strongly encourage implicit bias training and racial profiling training for all prosecutors.
Community Relations: Implement community policing; establish training requirements for School Resource Officers; advance relationships with transgender populations, and the deaf and hard of hearing population.
These few recommendations I believe demonstrate the sincerity of the actions of the commission. Legislation on some issues is working its way through the House and Senate, and funding has been provided in the budget for body cameras and dash cameras. Once the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget passes, Safety will begin a program where police departments can request funding for cameras.
Police Standards and Training is working on many of the recommendations to improve the training and some of the improvements will be implemented during the next two years and some of them will require funding in future budgets.
There is no question policing in New Hampshire is totally different than what you read and see across the United States. Thank you to all our police for doing a great job!
Karen Umberger is a Republican state representative from Kearsarge.