The Bulletin Board

House committee rejects police reform bill amendment

By: - May 18, 2021 5:20 pm
A police vehicle

The House Judiciary Committee voted to defeat an amendment that would have allowed a person to sue a public employer – including a police department – for any actions by an employee that violate another person’s constitutional rights.(Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A New Hampshire House committee has killed a last-minute Democratic effort to hold police departments and other public bodies liable for their employees. 

In a 14-7 vote, the House Judiciary Committee voted to defeat an amendment that would have allowed a person to sue a public employer – including a police department – for any actions by an employee that violate another person’s constitutional rights. 

Presently, New Hampshire law recognizes “qualified immunity” and “official immunity,” two legal mechanisms that exempt a public employee from any civil liability for their actions, provided they were not reckless. 

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Paul Berch, a Westmoreland Democrat, would have continued protecting employees such as police officers from personal liability in lawsuits. But it could have put their employers on the hook financially if a civil court agreed with the plaintiff. 

Berch had attempted to add the amendment to Senate Bill 96, a bipartisan bill that includes many of the reforms suggested by a police reform commission that formed in 2020.

That bill would help fund body cameras, require implicit bias training for judges, and reduce the severity of certain delinquency hearings in the juvenile justice system. 

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.

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