On January 18, 2022, the ACLU of New Hampshire sued the New Hampshire State Police for attempting to keep secret the police misconduct records of former state trooper Haden Wilber. This case follows three New Hampshire superior court cases—two of which were litigated by the ACLU of New Hampshire (Provenza and Salem)—concluding that certain police conduct information should be released to the public.
Former state trooper Wilber was discharged from the New Hampshire State Police in August 2021. He had been placed on the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule (also known as the “Laurie List”) due to credibility issues, and his alleged conduct in this February 2017 stop led to $212,500 of taxpayer funds being used to settle a 2019 federal lawsuit alleging that the trooper fabricated evidence.
According to the 2019 lawsuit filed against Mr. Wilber that was settled late last year for $212,500 and arose out of the February 2017 stop, Mr. Wilber stopped a woman driving on I-95 North for having “snow on her rear lights.” During this stop, the lawsuit alleges that Mr. Wilber fabricated a crime, leading the woman to spend 13 days in jail—during which time she was subjected to body scans and an invasive cavity examination because of Mr. Wilber’s false assertions.
This incident also highlights the concerning use of pretextual stops by the State Police’s Mobile Enforcement Team (MET), of which Mr. Wilber was a member. A pretextual stop is a traffic stop that an officer says was made for one reason (like a minor traffic or vehicle equipment violation), but where this reason is actually a “pretext,” meaning the officer actually made the stop for a different reason that would not provide a lawful basis for the stop (like finding the driver’s race, location, sex, car, or record “suspicious”). Pretextual stops are especially concerning because they can lead to significant racial disparities.
The ACLU-NH filed its reply brief on March 25, 2022.
On May 3, 2022, the Court granted the Petition, holding that "the public has a very strong and compelling interest in knowing whether Mr. Wilber's personnel file documents any misconduct prior to the filing of Ms. White's lawsuit. Whether it does or not, the public will gain insight into the State Police's practices and effectiveness in supervising its officers and employees."
The State Police appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The ACLU-NH filed its brief before the New Hampshire Supreme Court on November 4, 2022. The BLM Manchester, Union Leader/New England First Amendment Coalition, and the New England Area Conference of the NAACP support the ACLU-NH's lawsuit seeking transparency.