A once-secret list of New Hampshire police officers with possible credibility issues has finally been made public after years-long calls for greater transparency.
But details are scant about what led at least 10 current or former Monadnock Region police officers to be included on the partial list released by the Attorney General’s Office on Dec. 29.
Hinsdale’s police chief says that what has been released lacks context, and two area officers included on the list say they don’t know why they’re on it. The details of another officer’s inclusion on the list were divulged when she was rehired at another department, after being fired in Keene, and one former local officer whose name is on the roster is a convicted felon.
The partial release of the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule, better known as the Laurie List, late last month categorizes the reasons for the officers’ inclusion in just a few words: “excessive force,” “dereliction of duty,” “criminal conduct” or, most commonly, “truthfulness.”
A lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire and news organizations, including The Sentinel, had long sought the release of the list to shed light on issues of police misconduct. A state law signed by the governor earlier this year paved the path for the release of the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule. The bill required the Attorney General’s Office to contact all officers who are on it. Officers would then have six months to decide whether to appeal their placement on the list through the Superior Court and, as long as an officer’s appeal was pending, their name would not be released, the bill stipulated.
Henry Klementowicz, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire, said in an email Friday: “Our view is that the records pertaining to why an officer was placed on the list should be public, because there is significant public interest in disclosing these sustained acts of misconduct.”
Only allegations of misconduct that are “sustained” after an investigation should be included on the list, according to a 2018 law enforcement memorandum from the Attorney General’s Office that provides guidance about the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule.
Klementowicz said the list “is just one tool that the public can use to evaluate police officers and departments, but more is needed.”
From the Monadnock Region, the list of 80 officers released by the Attorney General’s Office includes three reported by the Hinsdale Police Department, two reported by the Keene Police Department and one each reported by the Peterborough, Stoddard, Winchester, Troy and Swanzey police departments. (Peterborough disputes that it reported the officer named on the list.) The officers may no longer be employed at the listed department or may be deceased, according to the list.
Kevin Martel is listed for “criminal conduct,” Rob Eccleston for “excessive force” and Bryan Jalava for “dereliction of duty.” Dominic Busto, Jillian Decker, David Eldridge, Michael Folini, Matthew Griffin and Louis Yelle are all listed for “truthfulness,” as is Troy Police Chief David Ellis.
Hinsdale Police Chief Charles Rataj declined to comment on why his department included officers Jalava, Eldridge and Yelle on the Laurie List, citing rules about discussing personnel.
He did, however, say the department no longer employs any officer named on the publicly available portion of the list or on the longer list of more than 250 officers, which has yet to be released in full.
“We currently as of today do not have anyone who is released or unreleased on the list at the Hinsdale Police Department,” Rataj said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Rataj said while he believes that the release of the list is a step in the right direction for transparency, there is little context for why officers are included on it, and its release “has probably created more problems than just having the list secret.”
He noted that judges and, in some cases defense attorneys, know the circumstances that led to an officer’s inclusion on the Laurie List, while the general public does not.
“There are some who might be listed there for something very minor and others for something very heinous,” Rataj said. “We now have a public list of [so-called] ‘bad cops’; I don’t think that does the police any good or the public, either.”
The 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland requires prosecutors to turn over evidence that is favorable to the defense.
Precedent from that case led the N.H. Supreme Court to overturn the conviction of Carl Laurie, who was charged with murder in 1989. The court determined that a detective involved in the case had a track record of poor behavior that wasn’t disclosed to the defense attorneys. Following that case, county attorneys began tracking police officers with potential credibility issues on what became known as the Laurie List. The list has more recently been maintained by the Attorney General’s Office and renamed the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule.
The Attorney General’s Office could not immediately be reached for comment Friday about concerns about the list. A 2017 memorandum from the office outlining exculpatory evidence protocol, however, stated, “It is important to recognize that inclusion on the EES does not mean that an officer is necessarily untrustworthy or dishonest — and in many cases the designation on the EES will make clear there is no question of dishonesty.
“It simply means that there is information in the [officer’s] file that must be disclosed to a criminal defendant if the facts of the case warrant that disclosure,” the memo said.
As first reported by the Brattleboro Reformer, two of the three officers on the list from Hinsdale are now employed at the Windham County Sheriff’s Office in Vermont. The sheriff’s office has placed those officers, David Eldridge and Bryan Jalava, on duties that don’t require law-enforcement responsibilities, like traffic details, the Reformer reported.
The date of the alleged incident that led Jalava to be added to the Laurie List on Dec. 31, 2018, was listed as “unknown.”
In an emailed statement he sent to The Sentinel on Friday, Jalava said he became aware of his placement on the list only a few weeks ago, after receiving a letter from the Attorney General’s Office.
“There was no due process to being added to the list,” he said in the email. “No notification from the party requesting my addition to the list, no hearing or opportunity to present my own evidence or testimony, and no notification once on the list or what it was even for. To this date, I still have no information on the alleged circumstances concerning my addition to the EES list.”
Jalava said he believes the list “has been egregiously abused/misused.”
“It’s bizarre that domestic abusers, child molesters, and murderers are protected and privileged to civil liberties and due process but law enforcement officers (not having committed a criminal act) in the state of New Hampshire are not,” he said.
As with Jalava, the date of the alleged incident that landed Eldridge on the Laurie List, in October 2020, is listed as “unknown.” He did not respond to multiple phone and email requests for comment.
Attempts to reach the third officer on the list from the Hinsdale Police Department, Louis Yelle, by phone were unsuccessful.
Keene Police Chief Steven Russo declined to comment on the personnel issues surrounding the two officers from his department, Jillian Decker and Matthew Griffin, on the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule. Russo, however, confirmed that he placed both officers on the list and that neither remains employed by the city of Keene.
Minutes from a public session of the Police Standards and Training Council on Aug. 24, 2021, state that Decker was fired from the Keene Police Department on May 3, 2021, “due to credibility issues that arose during an internal investigation, not related to her other than as a witness.” She was also included on the Laurie List due to the incident, according to the minutes from the meeting, during which the council determined she was eligible to work at the Hinsdale Police Department, where she’d been hired.
The minutes detail an internal investigation of officer misconduct off-duty, which Decker reportedly witnessed. She misled the investigator about the relationship she had with another officer at the department, who also was not the subject of the investigation, according to the minutes. Despite orders from the investigator to not speak on the matter with anyone, she then texted the officer she was in a relationship with and “advised him of what she disclosed to the investigator to interfere with his testimony,” the minutes state.
“Several days later she advised the investigator the truth about the relationship, she said she was embarrassed by that, her conduct and her relationship with the officer,” the minutes say.
Griffin is listed with two alleged incidents of “truthfulness,” both with unknown dates, reported to the Attorney General’s Office in 2017. The Sentinel was unable to find contact information for him.
Other communities in the region
Officers are typically placed on the Laurie List by the chief of their department. However, in the case of the Troy Police Department, the chief himself — David Ellis — was placed on the list on June 1, 2018, for “truthfulness.” The date of the alleged incident is listed as “unknown.”
Ellis, who was the police chief at the time he was put on the list and who remains at the head of the department, told N.H. Public Radio Thursday he has no idea why he was included, but intends to find out.
“As soon as I find out, I will let everybody know what it’s about,” he said.
Kevin Martel, a former Winchester officer whose name was placed on the list on June 1, 2018, is a convicted felon. The Laurie List includes Martel for “criminal conduct,” but lists the “date of incident” as “unknown.”
Martel pleaded guilty to felony criminal threatening in March 2016 for pointing his loaded duty gun at the ex-boyfriend of a woman he was romantically involved with. At the time of the Aug. 21, 2015, incident, which took place in the Winchester village of Ashuelot, he was wearing his uniform and driving a marked police cruiser, according to prosecutors.
Peterborough Police Chief Scott Guinard declined to comment on what landed officer Michael Folini on the Laurie List for “truthfulness.” Although the Peterborough department is listed as the “reporting department” for Folini, Guinard disputed that his department added him to the list. Guinard said he hired Folini in November 1998 knowing that he was on the list for a 1997 incident. He said he never had any problems with the officer — who worked at the department until April 2006 — testifying and working on cases. Folini had worked at the Lebanon Police Department before joining the Peterborough force, the chief said.
Rob Eccleston was added to the Laurie List on June 1, 2018. The date of the alleged incident is listed as “unknown.” The Sentinel was unable to find contact information for him.
The Stoddard Police Department did not return multiple phone and email requests for comment about officer Dominic Busto, who was added to the Laurie List on June 1, 2018. The entry for the “date of incident” on the list is empty. Busto remains on the department’s online roster as an officer.
More names of officers on the Laurie List are expected to be released in March.
Additional reporting was contributed by Sentinel staff writers Olivia Belanger, Molly Bolan and Rick Green.