While Gov. Chris Sununu continues to support the Black Lives Matter protests across New Hampshire, he told NHJournal he does not back the #DefundThePolice movement endorsed by the BLM movement.
“Of course not,” Sununu said when asked if he supports the proposal to defund police departments. “I’m not supportive of defunding law enforcement in any way.”
Signs declaring “Defund The Police” have appeared at Granite State rallies in support of Black Lives Matter and protesting the death — or “murder,” as Sununu calls it — of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis, MN police. The concept of drastically cutting or even defunding police departments has been part of the Black Lives Matter organization’s conversation since its founding. In 2016, one of their affiliates presented a petition to the Department of Justice with 500,000 signatures calling for “the defunding of police departments that reject reforms.”
“Are we willing to live in fear that our lives will be taken by police officers who are literally using their power in the wrong way, or are we willing to adopt and absorb the fear of what it might mean to change our practices, which will ultimately lead to a better quality of life for everyone,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
Sununu said at Tuesday’s COVID-19 press conference that while he supports the protests, he doesn’t believe there is systematic racism in New Hampshire’s police community.
“We talk about implicit bias. We talk about the idea of making sure that all the law enforcement communities across the state understand those issues in terms of how to deal with them,” Sununu acknowledged, but added, “Do we have systematic racism throughout our law enforcement community here in New Hampshire? No.”
“There may be elements of racism and bias, and we can tackle those and manage those as, as they come up. But that doesn’t mean you go defund the police. That has massive repercussions to it,” Sununu said.
Not everyone agrees.
“New Hampshire is not immune from institutional racism,” Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky wrote in a Concord Monitor op-ed Monday. “Addressing it requires far more than a photo op, the establishment of yet another diversity committee or the writing of an op-ed like this.”
Matt Simon, New England Political Director of Marijuana Policy Project told NHJournal, “I’m sure a lot of Granite Staters would like to believe there’s no systemic racism in New Hampshire, but the numbers tell a very different story. One irrefutable example is the fact that in 2018, the year after decriminalization took effect, black people continued to be arrested at 4.1 times the rate of white people, despite using cannabis at nearly identical rates. This isn’t anecdotal — it’s reality.”
In Washington, DC, Democrats unveiled their plans for police reform in the wake of the Floyd killing. The Justice in Policing Act would limit qualified immunity for police in the case of misconduct, create a national database of use-of-force incidents and ban the use of chokeholds by police.
The bill does not mention defunding the police, though several high-profile Democrats like Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) have endorsed it.
Sununu declined to name what specific police reforms he would support in New Hampshire, though on Friday he gave his qualified support to legislation requiring police to report misconduct by their fellow cops. Asked about banning NH police from using chokeholds, Sununu said he was open to that idea as well.