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Senate, governor take steps toward police accountability

June 16, 2020 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Both the governor and state Senate took steps Tuesday toward holding police more accountable in New Hampshire.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed an executive order creating a commission on law enforcement accountability, community and transparency in response to what he called the “tragic murder” May 25 of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the resulting national conversation on law enforcement, social justice and the need for reforms.

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Meanwhile, the state Senate passed a bill that combined several measures on the same topic. Among other things, it would prohibit choke holds by police, require police to report misconduct by fellow officers and increase pre-employment mental health screenings for officers.

Sen. Melanie Levesque, D-Brookline, said the deaths of Floyd and other black men and women at the hands of police have highlighted deep-rooted problems that must be addressed. Levesque, the Senate’s only black member, briefly broke down in tears recalling Floyd’s death.

“Though we have come a long way, there are many, many miles to go,” she said. “As a state, we have marched, spoken up and demanded change. As a Legislature, we are taking a hard look at ways to improve our criminal justice system to put a stop to generations of system racism.”

Sen. David Starr, R-Franconia, cast the only no vote. The bill now goes to the House for a June 30 vote.

The 13-member panel created by the governor will be led by the attorney general’s office and include representation from police, a circuit court judge, the NAACP, members of human rights, diversity, mental health groups and the public.

The commission will look at police training and policies, procedures related to the reporting, investigation and punishment of police misconduct, and the state of relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

The commission will produce a report within 45 days with its recommendations.