This week the Union Leader has joined with the American Civil Liberties Union — New Hampshire and five other media outlets in a court battle over the “Laurie List.” This list is a running tally of New Hampshire law enforcement officers who have been flagged for credibility problems. A heavily redacted list, a list with no names, has been released and shows everything from concerns over “Honesty” to “Egregious dereliction of duty” even “Truthfulness and Excessive use of force.”
The Attorney General’s office keeps this list and officially calls it the “Exculpatory Evidence Schedule.” What this means to John Q. Public is that the involvement of these officers in a criminal case needs to be disclosed to the defense attorneys in that case as the credibility problems of the officer may help the defense of their client. What this also means to John Q. Public is that there may be officers with minor or major credibility problems patrolling their town and being paid by their tax dollars. While the full list remains a closely guarded secret the citizens of New Hampshire will not know if one of these officers is in their town.
The Attorney General equates the list to personnel files, subject to confidentiality. This argument fails at the outset. These are public servants doing work for the public that have been identified by their chiefs as having credibility problems. There are surely some nuances to the process. Names may go on the list to come off after investigations are completed, some on the list may no longer be in law enforcement, some may even be incarcerated. The solution to this is obvious, more transparency, not less. There should be more detail on the list, even additional documents, so the public knows if an officer is under investigation or something more serious.
In the story about this case published in this newspaper yesterday there even seemed to be questions regarding defendants in settled cases being informed of an officer’s placement on the list. This is apparently left in the hands of individual prosecutors.
Faith in law enforcement has been under strain across the United States. New Hampshire has many hard-working, dedicated officers performing a very difficult job. These officers deserve the faith and respect of the public and not to be tainted by a secretive list.