BLM, NAACP, Union Leader join ACLU in effort to open files of fired trooper

Nov. 8—Civil rights groups, an open government advocate and the Union Leader Corp. have signed onto an effort to force disclosure of internal files related to a disgraced New Hampshire State Police trooper.

The Union Leader, BLM-Manchester, the New England NAACP and the New England First Amendment Coalition all submitted papers last week that urge the New Hampshire Supreme Court to rule that internal files of Trooper Haden Wilber should be disclosed under the New Hampshire Right-to-Know Law.

State police officials fired Wilber in August 2021 for his role in a traffic stop that led to the jailing of a Maine woman for 13 days. She underwent intrusive cavity searches on the trooper's hunch that she was hiding drugs in her body.

The state ended up settling a $212,000 lawsuit in her favor, and earlier this year an appeals board denied Wilber's reinstatement.

The ACLU-New Hampshire has gone to court to force New Hampshire State Police to release its entire file on Wilber, following concerns about the pretextual stops and aggressive tactics of the State Police Mobile Enforcement Team when it comes to drug interdiction.

A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of the ACLU, but New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella has said that a law restricting the use of police files in criminal cases prevents the release of the Wilber file.

That law outlines the circumstances when a criminal defendant gets access to evidence that could help him at trial, specifically any evidence that would impact the credibility of police witnesses and investigators. The law requires such evidence to be turned over, but specifically states that other portions of the file remain confidential.

If the Supreme Court does not honor that law, "absurd results" would follow, wrote Jessica A. King, the assistant attorney general handling the appeal. "Criminal defendants will lack access to records in a police personnel file in a criminal case that the public may obtain pursuant to a simple Right to Know request," she wrote.

In its filings, the ACLU has said their request follows recent Supreme Court decisions that back the disclosure of personnel files for good reason.

It quoted Superior Court Judge John Kissinger, who ruled that "if the logic of the State Police were to be followed to its conclusion, any record placed into the personnel file of a police officer would be wholly unavailable for public review."

In its amicus brief, BLM-Manchester said transparency in policing is beneficial to the public and police.

Union Leader lawyers wrote that the public interest in the proper administration of justice clearly outweighs any alleged privacy rights of Wilber.

The Supreme Court has yet to schedule a date for oral arguments.