CONCORD, N.H. - The ACLU of New Hampshire today 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.
“The allegations against Mr. Wilber arising out of a February 2017 traffic stop are outrageous and reflect both a gross miscarriage of justice and a complete breakdown of the criminal justice system at every level,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “In this historic moment of conversation about police accountability nationally and here in New Hampshire, the State Police should take a position of transparency—not secrecy—concerning one of its troopers who engaged in potential misconduct. There is simply no legal justification for the State Police’s effort to keep this information secret in this case—it only undermines trust and confidence in law enforcement. This secrecy also runs contrary to recent police reform efforts in New Hampshire and shows that we still have a long way to go.”
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, 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.