The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire is celebrating its fourth legal victory in unveiling examples of police “misconduct” contained within internal personnel documents after a Rockingham County Superior Court judge ordered the release of a 2012 internal investigation into Salem Police Sgt. Michael Verrocchi.
Judge Daniel St. Hilaire granted the release of the internal affairs documents on July 16. Town Manager Chris Dillon said the town decided not to appeal the order, and the police department sent the ACLU the documents on Aug. 3.
“This decision is an important one for police transparency in New Hampshire. “Since last year’s New Hampshire Supreme Court decisions making clear that the government cannot categorically keep police misconduct information secret, this is the fourth Superior Court decision that we are aware of ordering the disclosure of this information,” said ACLU-NH Legal Director Gilles Bissonnette in an emailed statement.
“These courts are saying what is obvious to the citizens of the Granite State, especially after the murder of George Floyd last year – namely, that there is a public interest in knowing about police misconduct. We will continue litigating these cases until this information becomes public once and for all.”
The nine-year-old incident, in which Verrocchi while off duty evaded fellow officers in a high speed chase down Route 28 in Salem, was never reported to prosecuting jurisdictions. Verrocchi was disciplined with a one-day unpaid suspension. The details of that incident later came to light after a 2018 audit of the Salem Police Department’s internal affairs process by Kroll Inc.
Last year, the state charged Verrocchi with felony reckless conduct with a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor count of disobeying an officer. In a plea deal announced last month, Verrocchi pleaded guilty to a speeding violation and will complete 100 hours of community service.
The investigation by Salem police leadership included interviews with Verrocchi and passengers who were in the vehicle at the time. Everyone involved believed Verrocchi was attempting a prank that went too far.
“He acted like it was a big joke,” Officer Michael White, who arrived at the end of the chase to back up his fellow officers, told investigators.
Verrocchi admitted his mistake.
“I messed up, it’s all on me, I took it too far,” Verrocchi said according to the documents.
Many of the other details of the incident were already made public in Verrocchi’s recently unsealed arrest warrant, which includes state investigator Todd Flanagan’s summary of the IA documents.
In a letter from former Deputy Chief Shawn Patten to Verrocchi, Patten said he expected this behavior not to occur again and applauded Verrocchi’s decision to take full responsibility for his actions that evening.
“You are well liked by your peers and supervisors and are an extremely intelligent and competent Police Officer,” Patten wrote.